Take Days Off

I am continually finding that days detached from my yoga studio lead to improvements in my teaching and my practice. I’m not talking about more than a couple of days, but taking 1 or 2 days off is extraordinarily beneficial to my practice. It allows the joints to rest, reset, and relax and the muscles to re-hydrate, re-oxygenate, and recuperate. I also find that when you come back it makes the enjoyment of the practice sweeter, almost like a friend that you haven’t seen in a while. Traditional Ashtanga yogis take Saturday and the new and full moon days off, which I am getting more and more inclined to do. The gravitational and magnetic effects of the moon definitely have a weird effect on the human circulatory system (being 70% water and all).

In college one of my psychology professors was avid about the incubation process for ideas. It is a great concept and definitely seems to hold true; the idea is that the more you sit with an idea, the more connections you allow for and the more robust you allow that idea to become. Coming back to the idea over and over after forgetting about it will lead to strengthening the concept and creating more supporting ideas and connections for that concept. It’s essentially saying that giving an idea time to grow allows the idea to become more robust.

I interpret this as needing to give your unconscious mind some time to process information and create new connections. This is where the popular saying “sleep on it” comes into play; sleeping is where neurogenesis (the brain creates new brain cells and maintains old brain cells) happens and the unconscious is given time to integrate new information, events, etc. Then as the decision maker wakes up, they can re-assess the situation with fresh eyes for a new day, detached from their prior preconceptions.

So days off the yoga mat are important. You need to give certain joints days of rest if you work them every day (*cough* lower back *cough*). It’s great to have a six-pack; it’s better to have a strong and healthy spine. Your mind takes time to integrate what it has learned, and yes, Savasana really is important. It integrates your proprioceptive learning (feeling the individual muscles and ligaments used and integrating the new information into the peripheral nervous system). Savasana is similar to a sleep state and tons of neurogenesis is occurring in the pose. In fact, meditation and especially yoga generally bring up sleeping-state brain waves; this is part of the reason that yoga is so beneficial and healing.

So take a day off here and there. But daily practice is the way to deepen the yoga practice, so try to go multiple days in a row complimented by one day of rest; it will lead to the greatest results. Even 5-10 sun salutations in the morning can change your body and daily practice will help you to get deeper into the muscles, joints, and ligaments that you desire to be stronger and more flexible. Yoga, I find, is all about balance. So allow yourself that freedom

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