The new year has officially started, which for many of us goal and dream oriented individuals means a desire to jump headfirst into our new workout goals. We at Oxygen Yoga & Fitness are happy to support you on that journey. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, one of the best ways we’ve found to ensure your long term success in showing up and putting in your best effort in classes is taking the time to prioritize rest. One place you may be overlooking the importance of rest is during your workout classes. Luckily, the opportunity to rest when needed is baked right into your yoga classes. But to better understand why this rest is necessary, how it’s resetting your body, and what you should be focusing on during these periods, let’s consider our positions of rest in more detail.
What are rest poses?
Rest poses are the poses we return to amidst our yoga practices to reset our bodies and minds. You might have heard your yoga teachers refer to the poses you return to over and over as such and in fact, you wouldn’t be alone if you found yourself struggling to balance or get your heels down in a downward facing dog while your teacher described it as a rest pose. If this has happened to you, you might have questioned how on earth this pose was meant to be restful.
While all our bodies are different and so will inherently find different things restful, we might utilize these poses for a myriad of reasons. You might take a rest pose if the movements your class is being led through aren’t working right in your body today. If you’re injured, finding a pose too far outside of your body’s comfort zone, or simply need a break, you may choose to return to a rest pose instead of completing the movements the rest of your class is flowing through. It’s important to us that when you step into our yoga classes you feel comfortable taking these poses whenever it feels right for you. This is sort of like an honor system. If you lay down in savasana the entire class you may not get the workout you were hoping to get out of the class. But on the other hand, if what you need is to be surrounded by your peers in the restorative infrared environment we cultivate while you lie still, you’re welcome to do so. There’s benefits to be found from many versions of yoga class.
You’ll often find your yoga class will return to these poses intermittently, whether it be to bring the class back together, to give you an opportunity to focus more on the meditative aspects of yoga, or to give your muscles a chance to relax before your next class. Next time you’re in class, take note of when you’re in your rest poses. You may even want to chat with your teacher before or after class about their intention in using these classes and how to best connect your body to the rest positions. If you are looking out for rest poses, two of the poses we often use as rest poses are child’s pose and downward facing dog, so why not also take the chance to consider your posture and intentions as you enter each of these poses.
When you take child’s pose, you sit with your feet under you and knees on either side of your body as you reach your arms out and lean out towards the ground. If you’re unfamiliar with the pose, you can watch this demonstration from Mayo Clinic. As described by Yoga Basics, child’s pose is “a restorative pose that is known for its calming, grounding, and relaxing effects”. Given this description alone, you can likely gather why this pose would be a good choice for a resting position. In addition to grounding, the pose is, according to WebMD, used to “reset the body”.
Downward facing dog
Downward facing dog provides a different sort of reset than child’s pose. You won’t lay on the ground for this one. You might imagine downward facing dog as creating a triangle with your body and the floor, your legs and hands both on the ground, back and legs both held strong and straight, and hips pushed back towards your legs. If you’re unfamiliar with the pose, this full tutorial from Everyday Yoga may be helpful. This position stimulates circulation, according to Ekhart Yoga. As Annie Carpenter described for Yoga Journal, this pose can be about different things for everyone – stretching, strengthening, or stabilizing. Whatever you find yourself focusing on in your yoga class, regularly circling back to downward facing dog during class may help you maintain that focus.
Rest practices are important because while we take classes as a community, each of our practices are individual. We need to give our bodies time to adjust, stretch, strengthen, and grow. If our bodies aren’t connecting with a practice, we need to honor what our body is feeling. Take a minute before or during your next class to consider how you’re using your rest poses and don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions!