Letting Go

” In the end only three things matter; how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of those things that are no longer meant for you.”  Buddha

I took a road trip back in time this weekend. My mother recently moved to Northfield to live, but completion of her move has been delayed due to winter and time constraints. So, on a beautiful spring Saturday at the end of March, she and I make our way back to her home in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Our mission is to bring back more pieces of her life-plants, papers, paintings. This snow-free, sunny trip feels good, but we both have mixed emotions as we drive. Those of you who have been on this journey know that it can be emotionally charged, draining as well as cleansing. Either way, it is also a chance to weave together past and present.

My parents were both musicians so my brother and I grew up around many instruments. The baby grand piano was the cornerstone of them all, however. It stood, shiny, black, and stately, in the front window of our home and on it my brother and I learned to play; my mother played or gave lessons to others. As young children we felt the grace and beauty of music woven into our lives.

This piano has been in our family for over 50 years now, but it will not be coming to Northfield. On April 1, movers will take it to a new life, this time at a memory care home on the edge of Menomonie. Over the past few months my mother has decided that this instrument, bought in the early days of my parents’ marriage, is no longer meant for her, it needs to move into the lives of others. Very soon, the piano that brought our family such joy will bring music to elderly patients living within the confines of dementia. Without knowing it, my mother has arrived at the place where Buddha says we should be. She is gracefully letting go of something no longer meant for her. She is sharing her gift of music with others in a new way. What better ending for this well-loved instrument could there be?

Decisions like these cause us to think about the objects in our lives. More and more often now, as I clean closets and come to terms with the pieces of hobbies I may not continue or uncover clothes that no longer fit, I give thought to the question- who else could benefit from these now? What may happen to it when it is no longer meant for me? Through questioning I come to decide-is this a passing, perceived need or, like the piano, a lasting gift to be passed along to someone else sometime in the future?

Things we own can reflect our true nature or they can represent the power of desire and submission to societal pressures of advertising or conformity. We do not need more “stuff”, we need more empathy and compassion toward each other and the world in which we live. Maybe now more than ever it is important that we continue to think about the wisdom Buddha proclaimed thousands of years ago. Reflecting our love from and for others, living gently on this earth we share, and letting go gracefully of those things that we are no longer meant to have is how we become whole within our lives and the greater universe in which we all inhabit.

Namaste,  Ann

Regaining Balance

In one of my regular yoga classes at Heartwork last week we focused on balance poses. As many of you already know, balance poses can be tricky and totally different from day to day. Probably more than most other postures, they are influenced by time of day, stress level, worry, and anything else that interferes with concentration. It’s hard to stand on one leg with arms raised when your mind is worrying about another aspect of your life. In may case this evening, I didn’t even realize I was out of balance until I started balancing! I tried everything-moving into the pose slowly and deliberately, focusing on the corner of the wall ( my immoveable drishti!), deep breathing. Nothing helped. Over I went, more than once. I finally accepted the fact I needed to just laugh and keep both feet on the floor.

Tipping over in a pose can be frustrating and humbling. “Tipping over” in our lives can be even more so. It makes us feel off balance and angry and all sorts of other destructive emotions. It often makes us want to push harder into whatever we are doing, rather than step back, reflect, and regroup. Yet often, the harder we push through something that may not be ready to happen, the more off balance we may get. It is often said that what we do ON our mats reflects our lives OFF our mats. Here are some “on the mat” lessons that could apply to daily living.

Embrace the fall.

I had to finally embrace the fact that I was going to fall that night. My typical strategies were not working so I could either give up, become more frustrated, or laugh. Balancing requires a person to think about various options and make choices. It requires us to accept a certain amount of “falling out” of something in order to learn how to better stay in. And it also requires us to remember and apply old lessons to new ones, always ready to accept a certain amount of change. A fall is not a failure, a fall is a learning experience. Accept it and the lesson it brings and move on.

Find Focus.

No matter what happens, on or off the mat, we need to be able to focus on something in order to develop, nurture, and maintain it. We are a society with many distractions. We can’t even pull up our computer screen without ads invading every available space, demanding our attention ( and our money!). Now, more than ever, we need to chose those things that have long-lasting meaning for us and give them our complete attention, just as we find our focal point during a yoga class to help us center. The pervasive “clutter” imposed on us, and often unknowingly embraced by us, has the potential to destroy our ability to focus on what truly matters. Make caring for yourself your first focus. Then you will be ready to give quality attention to other parts of your life and ignore what no longer works for you.

Create a safety net.

My safety net the other evening was the wall. I knew it was there, rock solid, waiting to hold me up if I needed it to. I could reach out with my fingers, guiding myself back into the pose, righting my off-balance posture. In our lives we need to have something or someone we can count on when we feel out of balance. We gain strength and connections in relationships. What do you need when you are off-balance? A walk in the woods with a friend, a weekend away, extra sleep, more yoga? Time alone? Figure out what you need and give it to yourself.

Learn and move on.

As you work through the imbalances in your life, try to think of each one as a learning experience. Maybe they happen for a reason, a wake-up call for needed changes. Talk to a friend who may be able to see your situation from a different vantage point. This can offer a more complete picture of what the lesson may be. And remember, just the act of awakening to a need, thinking it through, realizing something needs to change, and then  making that happen is a huge learning experience.

An imbalance that feels out of control can eventually turn into more of what you truly need for your life. As you learn to face this need, be good to yourself and do what my 5 year old grandson told me last weekend-give yourself a big kiss! How?…”just blow one into the air and then walk through it.”





Finding Space

Fiinding a variety of indoor activities to replace outdoor ones can be a challenge this time of year, especially when the stretch of cold and snow is a long as it has been lately. While we all know it does no good to rant about the weather, there are only so many movies to watch, family games to play, closets to clean, and healthy food to convince our children to eat! The urge to get out of the house tugs at us but the weather prevents action, leaving us feeling trapped and less-than-mindful. As winter narrows the space in which we live, we need to ask ourselves- what can we do to make this space more expansive and rich, not just during the cold sequestration of winter but also the rest of the year. How can we realize the danger of space-clutter- when we narrow our lives with to-do lists, email, tweets, twitters, and other daily agendas?

My antidote to combat these winter blues and blahs was to attend the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concert last Sunday. I grew up in a musical family and am not a stranger to classical music concerts but this day I was unexpectedly transported far away from any weather concerns into a world of beauty and clarity. As I listened to music written two and three centuries ago, performed by masters of their craft, I was reminded that there is so much more to life than the snow outside our windows, the inconveniences of living in the Midwest, and the narrowness we often impose upon ourselves.

With eyes closed, I moved into a place where space existed for the pure enjoyment of an art. There is  a term for this-sukha, or “good space”. How was it possible for composers and musicians in much more difficult times to express themselves so exquisitely when their living conditions today would be considered unbearable? Forget the Polar Vortex, they had no running water, electricity, central heat, snow plows, or smart phones. How did they survive? Or maybe, because of the lack of these common conveniences, they were able to make space in their lives for the things that brought them joy…. artistic expression and room for their own innate talents and gifts. They were giving Sukha priority rather than second billing.

My daughter Emilee, a very wise young woman, has a 20 month old daughter, Olivia, who is a curious, delightful child. But even so, Emilee found herself giving daily chores like laundry, cooking, cleaning, and running errands more attention and priority over time with Olivia. Her daily space, once spent painting pictures of suns and stars with Olivia was being consumed with mundane chores. One evening she realized that she “was not going to remember doing laundry but would always remember coloring pictures at the kitchen table or making guacamole with her daughter”. She started to change her space and create precious time with Olivia again. Their sukha  is once again blossoming.

So as we work our way through this winter season and move into spring, think about how you can create space in every day for something that may be dormant in your life. How can you give yourself back the sukha you need to become the creative, thinking, and curious person you once were? We may not write symphonies or paint art that lasts for centuries, but we sure can be just as important to ourselves and our families in our own way. Create your space and see what you can do!


Namaste. Ann


The Company of Others

A few weeks ago my husband and I visited a long-time friend of the family in her new home in a care facility. The visit with her is never easy, since conversation is getting more and more difficult for us all. Her memory moves in and out, and with it the ability to talk about anything at length. As we drove into her neighborhood, I noticed the sameness and sterility of it all. Every building, for several blocks, was new and orderly and exactly alike-equally spaced in its yard, windows closed, curtains pulled, exact same colors, exact same yards. It would be easy to lose ones’ way in this neighborhood where individual differences were not apparent, at least from the outside.

Inside the memory care unit where she lives, twelve women were seated in a circular arrangement on a variety of chairs and couches. They sat closely, two or three to a seat, yet not one of them was looking at another. The silence was deafening. These women of differing ages, backgrounds, and health were just sitting. There was no joy in the sitting that I could feel, no words, laughter, or good smells of home cooked food. Just silent, barren sitting.

We learn in yoga that sitting with oneself is important, yet this was so completely different. Sitting alone by choice gives us time to reflect and tune into our own thoughts and processes. But this was a different sitting. This was the sitting of isolation within a group. There was no energy, no discovery of self or of others here. Only waiting, for something undefined.

I wondered how to reach a person  who is locked into a journey into themselves without the ability to make that choice. We are a social people and need others to share with, care for, and communicate with. Words and thoughts bind us together. Even for those with dementia, the give and take of language is critical to well-being and connecting.

We sat at a table with our friend, still struggling to find common ground, when suddenly one of the care providers turned on some music. Hymns from long ago, probably when most of these women  were young, filled the room. I was reminded again, as I so often am, of the power of music. What words can’t do, often music can. And so it was here. Slowly, one or two voices at a time, the women began to sing, first with deliberateness and soon with more joy. Their voices filled and warmed the room. The language of their childhood music was still inside each one of them. The young care worker sat between two very elderly women, not sure of the words or tunes but sharing the music book and singing along. She too had a smile on her face. Music was giving all these women connections with their past, their present, and with the young care worker-the future generation. The transformation in the room was palpable. We joined in as well and I was reminded of my early years, sitting with my grandparents in their small church in rural Herman. Then I listened to unfamiliar verses, today I knew them by heart. I was getting as much as receiving here in the place.

We are in the most social, family centered, contemplative time of the year. We struggle to keep our lives meaningful and calm. For many of us, our yoga practice and inward reflections are what keeps us grounded. With our practice we are more available to others. As we honor the longest day, celebrate the darkness that provides us a path inward, and make our pledges to uncover our own inward needs and strengths, remember that it many not take much to share who you are with others. A song, a family game around the kitchen table, a special meal from an old family recipe. These are the pieces of our lives that connect us to each other.

And as we begin this new year, think of someone you many know who lives in a “sterile” place right now. How could you reach out to them, and receive in turn the gift of sharing? Is there a small bit of joy you are overlooking in your life that would grow by sharing with another person? Is there a new place you can turn something from sterile into joy? Take time for yourself-to sit alone in silence to find your own joy. Then take this outward, into the light, and the company of others.

Here’s to a joy-filled new year!

Ann Christy Dybvik
December, 2013

Through Child Eyes

I just spent four days with my 19 month old granddaughter, Olivia. I haven’t seen her for three months and in this time she has learned the power and purpose of language and uses it very effectively! In addition to the wonder of talking, holding, and playing with her, ( and the joy of watching my own daughter become an awesome mom!) I quickly realized one again that children seem to get it right… while we adults struggle to find balance in our lives, to focus and center ourselves, children just do it.  A child can find joy in a simple smudge on the floor, a stuffed animal that fits just right in two hands,  a bug on the sidewalk, a new word. They see what they want, hold it, play with it, then let it go and move on to the next big adventure. What wonder there is in the littlest of things.

Since the weather in Tulsa is still sunny and warm, we spent much of our time outside. As we explored  parks and museums, Olivia showed me what was important. She found two sticks of different lengths, a small round stone, a deceased bug, and later that evening a full moon in the sky. During all of these discoveries there were no distractions from the object of her attention. One thing at a time. True focus. The sticks took turns going down a playground slide. The small stone fit nicely in her hand so it went for walks with us. The bug, thankfully, stayed in the grass. Later, she found a great saving place for her stone-inside the (rental) car door ( to be removed later by Grandma before returning the car!) Olivia proudly placed it there with care and loving kindness, then moved on to her next joyful activity. The stone was not discarded, just given a good place to be. Isn’t that what we all want? A good place to be?

Children also navigate each other with beauty and ease. Olivia met a boy about her age at the playground. He spoke no English, she spoke no Spanish. But that didn’t matter. We watched them perform the “play with me” dance before climbing together up the slide steps. No words were needed, they were talking with eyes and faces and some hidden instinct. They were experiencing the joy of sharing with another human being. Could we as adults take a lesson here?

Yoga teaches us what children already know, that we need to find time to focus on the small things, the discoveries that are truly important, –nature, the eyes and faces of friends, secret spaces that hold hidden treasures, and the ability to be quiet, move in a dance with others with kindness, focus and purpose.

As we “wiser” adults move through our  too-stressful days, remember what things completely captured your attention as a child, what connected you with yourself. This was your beginning, the start of your true nature. It is as valuable now as it was then. Lose yourself in something you did as a child. Swing, run, skip, stare at the stars and moon or the morning sunlight. Find a really great stick or stone to hold, then give it a good place to be.  If we all keep our small things front and center we might not need to work so hard to find focus and comfort within. It will be there for us whenever we want it.


Namaste, Ann Christy Dybvik

Rituals and Balance

So many pieces of our summer lives seem to “pull in” at this time of year.  Patio tables and chairs are stored in the garage, plants are cut back or covered with straw, the bird bath is dismantled and feeders filled as we tuck our outdoor living away until spring. We, too reel ourselves in as we close windows, bring out extra blankets, and harvest the last of our garden crops. Homes become more cozy  but they can also create a less-than-positive feeling of closeness. There is less space into which to expand our daily living, as the outside becomes colder. This can feel comforting and safe at first but over time can lead to feelings of unbalance.

Rituals also seem to increase at this time of year. There are the rituals I already mentioned and there are the societal rituals such as the beginning of a new school year, holiday gatherings, and the change to seasonal foods.

Yoga has a sister science called ayurveda, which pertains to healing, or “the science of life”.  Developed, as did yoga, over five thousand years ago, it outlines a comprehensive approach to wellness and good health. In fact, it is thought that ayurveda is the oldest system of healing in the world. As in yoga, ayurveda encompasses body, mind, and spirit into a lifestyle of good health and well-being. So what does this have to do with our fall rituals?

Ayurveda proposes that there are three main body constitutions that “rule” everything from our type of energy to sleeping and eating patterns. Specifically, these constitutions are known as vata, pitta, and kapha. In ayurvedic descriptions this energy is described in relation to air, water, fire, earth, or ether.  We all have aspects of each type within us, but most of us have a greater proportion of one dosha over the other two. When we feel out of balance in our lives it is thought to be the result of a disconnect between our true nature, our dosha, and the forces that are operating within our lives.

This is important to think about at this time of year, whether you subscribe to ayurvedic teachings or not, because one of the best ways to re-balance your life and return to your true nature is to understand what’s out of balance and then create rituals within your life that help re-gain physical and mental health and well- being. If you are prone to anxiety, a calming warm bath every evening with scented bath salts and quiet time with a book or music, may be what you need. Or maybe you feel sluggish and unable to focus at times. Then daily walks in the brisk fall air and a change in diet could help you re-balance your life, allowing time to energize your body and bring new awareness to your senses.

A knowledge of ourselves, what we need in our lives to feel balanced and those things that put us off-balance, is critical to lasting good health and well-being. Once we are aware of what shakes us up and tips us into inbalance, we can begin to create the routines and rituals for ourselves we need. Ayurveda has many tools with which to do this, including diet, excercise, breath work, spiritual practice, and daily routines.

As you enter the next few months of closeness and containment, think about how it feels for you. Do you welcome this time of year? Or dread the closed in feeling and inability to spend more time outdoors? Do you relish the foods that we are drawn to now, or wish for the fruits of spring and summer? Take note of your feelings, make a list, mental or written, of what brings you back into balance, and then plan for these things to be a regular part of your life. You will find yourself looking forward to the part of day you have opened up to yourself, and will find yourself re-gaining balance.

Ann Christy Dybvik

Ann needs to spend outside time daily as well as keep a soy candle burning in the evenings as she reads. She welcomes any feedback from readers on their own rituals for keeping themselves balanced. Feel free to email me at: anndbvk@gmail.com with your comments and ideas!

Finding Mindfulness

In yoga, we are often counseled to “practice mindfulness” as a way to quiet the clutter in our heads. This clutter often takes the form of constant wandering thoughts and may include self-criticism, blame, worry, judgement, and past or future events. As these emotions swirl around in our minds, they preoccupy us to the extent that we forget to see what is here and now. In fact, we call these thoughts “monkey mind” since they move around so fast and so often! The trouble is, when monkey mind is present, it removes us from enjoying and discovering wherever we happen to be. Rather than connecting with the present, we often move into automatic pilot. This automatic mode quickly causes us to feel dull and disconnected… not a good way to spend our time.

In a warm, welcoming yoga studio such as Heartwork, moving into present awareness is much easier to do. The studio is quiet, calm, and dedicated to our practice. We are there to focus on our breath and poses. Mindfulness becomes more of a challenge when we leave this inviting space and face the reality of daily responsibilities. How do we develop mindfulness in our increasingly demanding world, where jobs expect us to multi-task and our personal lives are so tuned into technology we continually feel “on” and powerless to let go.

Mindfulness is not easy to practice in our daily lives, but it can be done, in fact is crucial to living a life of self acceptance, honesty, curiosity, and vision. It does not mean we have to change who we are, just that we become more fully present with our experiences. Mindfulness can make us appreciate the small pieces of each day and see new aspects of them that are otherwise buried under our automatic responses.

Here are a few simple, practical ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. Start small and you will be surprised how quickly the practice becomes part of your daily life….. and how much more aware and engaged you will find yourself.

*  Put aside all technology for at least a short time each day and tune into your senses.

* Use your drive time for quiet. Take three deep breaths before you turn on your car engine. Leave the radio off as you head to your destination. See if you can notice one new aspect of the drive each day for a week.

*  Before you eat a meal, look around the table. Take two or three deep breaths before starting to eat. As you begin, savor the taste, smell, texture of the food. What was it like to prepare?

*  Change the way you start a new activity. Notice the thoughts that run through your mind. No judgement, just notice. Discover something new about the way you begin.

*  Find a short “mantra” that you can say to yourself periodically during the day. An example might be, “May I be happy, May I be kind, May I find peace.” Say this quietly a few times as you deepen your breath.

*  Using a camera is a good way to focus your attention on something. Bring your camera on an afternoon walk and notice what is present. The picture later can be a reminder that there is beauty and wonder in the smallest of things.

Mindfulness involves a full range of human abilities, including awareness, curiosity, non-judgement, kindness and acceptance. Think of mindfulness practice as enhancing your time spent doing something. It is often called an “art”, something to cultivate. But it is an art that can be practiced anywhere, at any time. Start right now… notice your body posture, your breath, the thought that sits in your head. And then that’s it… don’t judge or feel anything other than curiosity and interest. Move on and do that again during the day. And again.  You are moving into mindfulness.


Ann Christy Dybvik

Ann lives and works in Northfield. She loves to walk or hike the Arb or Big Woods Park at this time of year, noticing the cool crisp air and vibrant colors of fall. She has two grandchildren who keep her happy, smiling, and centered.



Finding New Grooves

This time of year is one of change, probably second only to the New Year, when many of us set annual resolutions and vow to recreate an aspect of ourselves into something we would rather be. At the end of summer, Labor Day signals to parents, teachers and children the structured routines of school are back, along with the changes this brings-new teachers, things to learn, new schedules. This in turn means that parents return to the often intense and challenging roles that require juggling work, home, and family. The weather is no less constant, either. Our usually warm and sunny summer days become shorter, mornings darker, evenings cooler. Gardens produce and then fade into yellows and browns as food is harvested and plants die back. The cycle of life is fundamental change, yet every year we struggle with the features change brings to our own lives.

Change can be difficult for many reasons. We like to know what is going to happen and how to respond. As with seasonal changes, changes in our personal lives can be either chosen or forced on us through circumstances we did not anticipate or invite. When change is our choice, like the wish to embrace a more positive attitude or remove something from our diet, it means we have taken a look at something we no longer want to hold on to. Either way, by choice or not, change means transforming one aspect of our life into something new. And new can be unsettling.

In yoga we often talk about change. There is a yogic principle, called Samskara, that gives insight into the profound nature of change. Samskara refers to the patterns of behavior we hold inside ourselves, the ways we react to many things. They are acccumulated impressions- neuronal patterns-that include our character, perspective on life, way of thinking and acting to our surroundings and life events. A samskara is an energy pattern, sometimes described as our “default setting”, that takes us down a familiar road of responding every time we are in a certain situation. And every time we react in the same way, we are strengthening that road. That’s the bad news about samskaras. We often revert back to our default settings.

The good news is that once we understand that these patterns exist, it helps us understand why change can be difficult and gives us the patience to deal with the sometimes challenging and lengthy process. We can reset our default settings over time. This knowledge gives us greater understanding of ourselves and the capacity to forgive periodic setbacks. Think of the process as setting a “new groove” in your path toward change. Any small step is a positive one. We are working to change our samskara, it will take time.

The path of yoga is a transformative journey to our inner selves, but along the way the journey can get bumpy. We can become discouraged, especially when we look outward and compare ourselves with others rather than look inside and realize that no matter how small the steps toward change are, they ARE steps forward. Change is often slow and subtle but each step is one to celebrate as a movement toward our goal. At its most obvious level in our yoga practice, change happens with every pose we practice. We move from the comfort of child’s pose to the challenge of warrior one or two, tapping into different muscles and feeling the effect of a change in position. Or we move from not being able to touch our toes to a forward fold with our fingers on the ground. Celebrate that change and remember that any change is transformation-a powerful force that can lead us to the path of discovery of self.

This fall think of a pattern of behavior you have been wanting to change, then start to take small steps toward the new way you want to be. “Create new grooves” in your road to change- look inward, get support, focus on your feelings, and celebrate small steps. Change will come and with it new, positive shifts in your life.


Ann Christy Dybvik

Ann is a speech and language specialist and freelance writer who lives in Northfield. Her big change this summer was installing and tending the flower garden she put in her front yard!

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Gilda Radner

Find Your Joy

I spent three days last week choosing, arranging, and planting a front yard garden. This has been a dream of mine for years and I finally made it reality. During these three days I hauled dirt, dug holes, moved plants, made several trips to the greenhouse, and got very dirty! And I loved every minute of it. Halfway through the project I realized that I was in a place where I don’t often find myself…. the space where all sense of time is lost and there is complete focus on one thing. To me this is the experience of pure joy.

Joy has been described as an expression of freedom and pure release in the moment, where time stands still. What is it that brings you joy? It’s a good question to ask ourselves periodically, a mental “check-in” just like we do with email and phone messages. What brings you joy, and are you including it in your life? This second part of the question is as important as the first. Sadly, joy can be difficult to find in busy lives and hard to hold onto. But find it we must, since the best way to discover our true nature is to do those things that bring us joy.

We are all “wired” for joyful experiences but as we grow this emotion can become buried beneath layers of duties, stresses, and routines. Children are natural “joy experiencers”. Watch them discover their world through their senses. The joy children find in everyday occurrences is something we need to nurture and learn from. I witnessed this with my 5 year-old grandson recently when he had his first ever “sleepover”. The joy in his face was tangible as he told me about sleeping in a tent in the playroom with his friend and staying up “way past 9:30″ reading books to their stuffed animals. His joy spilled over into his parents, as they watched the two boys play. In many ways like this one, joy is something we share with others.

One of the recommendations for healthy living is to put more joy in our lives. There are so many ways to do this. Start by thinking back to what you loved to do as a child, since joy is the result of connecting with our own true nature. The seeds of what truly makes us happy start when we are children. As adults we can try to rediscover these seeds and start to plant them back into our lives.

A regular yoga practice can help us uncover our joy. In yoga we learn to focus, move into poses, and look into our hearts to uncover who we are. Music, art, nature walks, cooking, creating something new, all of these can give us joy. But joy doesn’t need to be set aside until all the duties of life are performed either. Joy can be found in daily moments as well. In fact the more we practice noticing and experiencing joy throughout our day, the more our lives will change.

Joy can bring us to a place where we want to be most often. So over the next few weeks start to free up time to do something you have been wanting to do, something that you know will bring you joy. Throw yourself into it and enjoy!


Ann Christy Dybvik

Ann is a speech and language specialist and freelance writer who lives in Northfield. She finds joy in her work with children and their families, in her own daily yoga practice, and in creating—books, baskets, weavings, and ideas!


In some cultures a daily “rest” is still practiced. For an hour or two every day, life slows down and rest takes over. Here in our often-frantic society, we do just the opposite… push forward faster, accumulate more stress, ignore the warning signs in our bodies and lives. Within the practice of yoga we share the realization that rest is as important as eating and breathing.

In yoga practice we begin and end each asana practice with a rest period. This may sometimes feel like less-important time, especially if we are there to energize or work on challenging poses. But in truth, rest periods are the most important time we can spend on our mats. Rest allows our bodies and minds to be still. Time spent in stillness helps us prepare for the asana practice and, at the end, integrates the experience for us. Rest brings stillness which encourages us to center ourselves and allows the body, breath, and mind to merge, letting everything else go. Rest teaches us to be present.

This integration is true whether the rest occurs on our yoga mats or during our daily schedule. Rest can be “grabbed” in a number of ways throughout the day, from a five minute “break” in which we close our eyes and watch our breath, to a meditative, quiet walk outside. Whatever it is, this time is important because during rest we regather strength and gain energy to move forward. Think of “rest” as coming home to yourself, for whatever length of time you can grab.

As we end our asana practices, we move quietly into our final pose-shavasana. The sanskrit word sava means corpse, so we call this corpse pose. Not a very alluring name, but it does indicate that we are moving into “final rest”. Shavasana gives us time to integrate our practice and let first the body, then the mind, and finally the spirit to become relaxed and connected. Scientists even have a name for this state- the “alpha brain state”. It means the mind is opening to creativity, insights, and connections. Next time your body tells you to take a rest, listen to it! It’s the best thing you can do for yourself!