Most of us have been advised to take some “R and R” at some point in our lives; time for rest and relaxation. This usually comes at times when we are super-stressed, and at a point where we’re already so burned out that if we don’t take time to rest we will simply break down—emotionally and physically.
Due to my own personal experiences with not heeding this advice, my motto is we need to rest and relax before the burn-out, using preventative medicine (like rest and relaxation) as an everyday practice and as a way of life.
For many years, “R and R” meant something different for me. It usually stood for Rock and Roll. I’m a touring musician and although mantra is one of my passions, so are rock, folk, blues and funk, which unfortunately are not usually performed in the early evening. I’d be out doing shows until 1:00 in the morning, and then it would be 2:00 by the time I got home. I’d make myself some Golden Milk and be in bed by 2:30—not ideal if you want to do sadhana in the morning or if you want to function and flourish during the daytime. It was a paradox—Rockin’ Roll Yogi.
Sometimes “R and R” meant Roam and Repeat. As a world traveler who has been guiding retreats for the past decade, I would lead yoga and hiking trips worldwide, often doing Machu Picchu in Peru, three to four times in a couple of months. That’s a lot of walking; a lot of energy expended; a lot of movement. It was an incredible experience, but it was also intense.
When I wasn’t traipsing around Peru, I’d lead trips in Canada and Hawaii and then in the winter months I based myself in the Caribbean where I was teaching a lot of Kundalini Yoga during the daytime. At nighttime, I’d be performing. Sounds exotic and amazing, and it was, but it also wasn’t sustainable, physically.
Several years ago I began having issues with low iron, being extremely fatigued, and my old pal Debby Depression started to make more frequent appearances. I wondered what was going on. I was “living the dream” as many of my friends would say. I weirdly took a sense of pride in how much I was “doing.”
I’d always been attracted to sports that were intense. I took part in extreme skiing competitions and pushed myself out of my comfort zones. My need for constant travel and new experiences was based a lot of the time on “FOMO” (fear of missing out) and I usually said “YES!” to everything. And now here I was at 40, without the energy to stay up past 8:00 pm to watch an episode of Outlander. I decided I needed to seriously chill, and therefore moved back to my little cabin in Nelson, BC after seven years of Toronto-based living (that proverbial “seven year itch” proved to be true). I needed to rest and relax.
Once there, I began to see a naturopath who ran several tests and determined that my low energy, iron and mood was due to a hormonal imbalance and that I had adrenal fatigue. It suddenly all made sense. She advised that I change my lifestyle, and less travel and go-go-go would serve me well. I started a regime of supplements and lifestyle changes that involved more rest. I began doing 40-day meditations and kriyas that supported my endocrine and nervous systems (Stress Set for the Adrenals and Kidneys was a go-to). I started having cranio-sacral sessions instead of my usual deep tissue massage. I said “no” to long strenuous ski tours and late-night events. I started to feel better. Much better.
On my (portable) altar is a photo of Yogi Bhajan. I remembered one of his teachings, "We are not human doings, we are human beings". This “doing” seems to be an integral part of the human condition these days, and here in the west we are compelled to do, do, do.
(Great, now I have that Police song in my head: da da da. I digress.)
Our success is often measured by how productive we are. It’s not common to be praised for doing less, and the fear of seeming lazy keeps us from taking the rest and relaxation that our bodies, minds and spirits so crave and deserve. I now see that I MUST rest and relax if I want to follow my bliss: music, yoga and travel. If I’m teaching a yoga workshop or doing a show, I make sure I nap, do my yoga and rest to prepare. If someone thinks I’m lazy, or not doing enough, I really don’t care. I lay my Leo-self down for a cat nap and yawn—loudly.
I’ve had a couple of setbacks whereby I felt really good again, and then drifted back to the old patterns of cramming too much into a day, staying up too late, and not listening to the messages of my body. As time progresses, I’m realizing that rest and relaxation simply have to be part of my daily routine. Whether it’s a more gentle kriya or meditation that focuses on rejuvenation, or having an afternoon siesta for 15 minutes, I fit it into my day.
The days are still productive and I’m teaching, performing and creating—still being the lighthouse, but I also know that I need that big ‘ol light to stay lit, and set boundaries with how much energy I expend. I say no to visits with people if I’m feeling fatigued, and take time to be still and silent instead, and plan for those visits when I have more to give.
It’s been a quite the journey whereby my own teaching practice has transformed as well; I'm looking at doing LESS on the retreats I lead and am building in a lot of downtime for people to rest. I encourage us all to “do less and feel more.”
I’m now in Mexico collaborating and performing with other musicians and I’m the gal who passes on the tequila rounds, sipping instead on ginger-mint tea (if I’m feeling really racey I throw some honey in there too!), and who leaves the jam session early to make sure I get to bed by about 10:00. I now take pride in resting more and aspire to be an example for others.
Nam Hari tells us that for this December the theme is “Relax and Rejoice,” which is pretty timely and is more the “R and R” that I’m tuning into these days. I have a big week of music coming up next week, performing several shows in the Tulum Jazz Festival, and am already preparing for that. Naps, yoga, meditation, nourishing food and some solo time to charge up for it. The FOMO has left the building and in this town where something amazing is going on all the time, it’s a relief. This morning my roommate asked me what I was doing tonight. “Nothing,” I smiled, “Absolutely nothing.”
Sarah Calvert is a Kundalini Yoga teacher and musician. When she's not meditating and relaxing, she's sharing the light through her music and teachings. www.sarahcalvert.ca