People are often put off of yoga and meditation because they think their mind is too jumpy and their body not strong or flexible enough. Restorative yoga can help you put those ideas to rest.
If you’ve ever thought, “My mind is just too busy to meditate.”
When you consider taking a yoga or meditation class, does your jumpy mind stop you with these kinds of thoughts?
“My mind goes a million miles an hour. I can’t meditate.”
“I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.”
“My body is so fidgety. I can’t settle down.”
If you do, you’re in good company. Many people feel this way. I felt this way when I first started doing yoga and especially meditation. Almost 20 years later, I’m evidence that even the most fidgety messes can learn to do yoga and to meditate.
It just may take a little more time than you think.
Why your jumpy mind and fidgety body emerges during rest
When I started doing regular yoga classes 18 years ago, I could barely make my body-mind still during the 5-minute final resting pose (svasana) at the end of a yoga movement (asana) class. I felt plagued by my thoughts, which were flying though my mind like out-of-control air hockey pucks. 😵 Sure, I could let go of a thought, but three more soon followed. I didn’t usually feel rested, more like a fidgety failure.
In those early days, I was more than willing to take day-long physical workshops or longer classes, but not the seated or resting practices. I would endure those quieter practices only if you really worked my body and then had me rest or do meditation toward the end of a class.
There is much scientific research on why exercise helps us to relieve stress. Exercise both stimulates and calms our bodies, according to the article, “Exercise to Relax” from Harvard Publishing of Harvard Medical School. During exercise, our bodies reduce stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, while stimulating the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.
Your body already knows this. If you decide to take a short walk in the middle of the day and then settle back to desk work, isn’t your mind calmer and body more settled?
It’s no different in yoga. In yogic tradition, movement (asana) usually precedes a focused meditation practice (dharana). For millennia, yogis have known what modern science has just now realized: We calm down better after our bodies have moved.
Our problem with settling down, especially our mind, is exacerbated by the proliferation of stimulation from technology or other interactions in modern life. Our nervous systems, overtaxed by way too much stimuli, struggle to settle down because we are in a constant state of vigilance.
In the book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Amelia and Emily Nagoski write that our bodies’ stress responses don’t really know the difference between being chased by a lion and being annoyed by a frustrating coworker during a long meeting. In the case of the lion, we would run away, putting the body’s flood of stress hormones to good use. Since it’s not socially acceptable to just bolt out of that meeting or reach across the table to strangle your coworker, you bottle up the hormones. You need to find a different way to move through the “stress cycle,” they write in the book. Moving through these stages of movement and meditation is one such way.
Yoga’s ancient wisdom can settle the jumpy mind and fidgety body
Yogic thought names two basic types of energy: apana and prana, and tells us the ways that we can balance them.
Apana is the energy that helps you interact with others and do what you need to do. It also helps you digest and eliminate toxins.
Prana is inward and upward energy, which is cultivated by resting and renewing, grounding yourself in a sense of purpose and connecting to your higher self or a higher power.
Neither of these energies are good nor bad, they just are. If they are not balanced, however, you might slip into illness or other kinds of distress.
Because of our hyper-busy lives, we tend to spend more time expending apana energy than cultivating prana. I try to keep the realities of modern living in mind when planning my restorative yoga classes. I include practices of movement, reflection and finally relaxation and meditation in order to help you boost your prana.
Accept your jumpy mind and fidgety body without judgment
If you’re still unconvinced that you will be able to do yoga and meditation, let me try one more idea on you: Release the judgment you have about your jumpy mind and fidgety body.
When your mind wanders, simply notice it’s wandering and then return to the focal point of the movement or meditation. No need to waste energy and time beating yourself up about it. Staying focused 100 percent of the time isn’t even a realistic goal – our minds are designed to jump around a lot in order to help us survive.
And, more importantly, the point is not clearing the mind or perfecting the body, like you may think from countless ads or social media posts. The point is wholeness. The point is healing. The point is bringing your true, balanced self forward.
How restorative yoga can help settle your jumpy mind and fidgety body
After many years, I finally started embracing the quieter, restorative and meditative practices I used to avoid. The longer classes actually gave me more time to settle my jumpy mind and fidgety body better than a shorter one.
I design restorative classes with your stress-filled life in mind. The nice thing about doing these classes on Zoom these days is that you can feel even more freedom to always do you. Do what you need to feel comfortable, even if that means getting up to walk around when you think everyone else is resting. (Psst … they might actually be doing the same thing. Their camera is just off.)
What restorative yoga looks like in practice
Here are some of the things you can expect in my restorative yoga classes:
Setting a theme. I usually frame the class with some overarching theme or lessons from yogic philosophy as a guide.
Journaling. I invite you to write or draw about the class theme through prompts I share. Or you can always just stare at the wall or walk around for a few minutes.
Setting an intention. Out of the journaling, I invite you to set a higher intention for the class as a way of connecting to your purpose for the class.
Gentle movement. I lead a series of yoga poses with LOTS of adaptations and options. (When I say I make yoga accessible, I really mean it.) Movement helps to settle our bodies and prepare our nervous systems for rest. Sometimes the movement includes a yoga dance party. 💃 No one said yoga couldn’t be fun!
Restorative poses. In the longer classes, this is a series of 3-4 restorative poses. In my weekly class, I usually encourage the class to do one reclining pose. These are fully supported, relaxing poses that use blankets, pillows, bolsters or whatever else you have handy to make your body feel completely at ease. And, again, you can always get up and move around if this gets to be too much.
Guided meditation. In one final resting position (not seated upright unless you really want to), I will guide you through a meditation while your body is relaxed and your mind and spirit can explore the practice. You may fall asleep, and that’s OK. Your mind is still taking it all in somehow. The body-mind is pretty amazing that way.
What other questions do you have? Drop me a question in the comments below or email me. You may have noticed that I LOVE to talk about restorative yoga.
What other questions do you have? Drop me a question in the comments below or email me. You may have noticed that I LOVE to talk about yoga.
Want to try restorative yoga?
Join me for my next restorative yoga party: How to Renew for Spring: Easter Restorative Yoga and Meditation on April 10, 1-3 p.m. ET. Tiered pricing and pay-as-you-are-able tickets make it financially accessible. Still not ready for two hours? No problem. Try my one-hour weekly restorative yoga class any Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. ET. You can get a free class pass (or a class recording to use at another time) along with four guided meditation recordings, the Create a Burnout-Proof Life mini course and access to the Defy the Trend community that fosters radical rest.