Yes, really. Some days I make time to do nothing. This is yoga.
If you want to do more than this (and I suggest perhaps waiting until a time when you’re not feeling so Busy to introduce a more complicated home practice), you can ask your yoga teacher to help you come up with a sequence that works for you. Or grab this download.
To be honest, the ‘doing nothing’ kind of yoga is often far more challenging for me than the stuff that’s stronger physically, especially when I’m feeling Busy. The urge to “be productive” with all my time is strong. I suspect many people would notice the same thing.
The thing is though, different types of activity affect us in different ways, and downtime is productive, not just for the physical body, but also for the brain. This bit is especially important for those of us who work, probably at a desk, in a job that uses the brain but not so much the body.
Here's how different types and levels of activity affect our brains:
Aerobic exercise — something that gets your heart rate up — encourages the growth of more neurons and a better blood flow in the brain. This seems to improve the ability to focus in the face of distractions; it improves planning, scheduling, working memory and the ability to switch between tasks. All pretty good reasons to step away from the desk and move around, yes?
Anaerobic exercise — stretching or strength training that doesn’t necessarily get the heart rate up — appears to increase activity in the part of the brain that helps us to resolve conflict and to distinguish between confusing or disparate sources of stimulation. Again, helpful.
And then there’s doing nothing. Physically, doing nothing (or at least very little) allows the body to rest, restore and digest. But mentally, doing nothing is important too. Resting allows the mind time to wander, and to start sorting through all the stuff. It’s in allowing the mind to wander that we’re more likely to suddenly realise, say, that the answer to the problem at work can actually be solved using the something from some other part of our lives. Neurologists call this analogical thinking.
Here's the clincher: what we do with the physical body seems to be more effective than cognitive exercises for improving brain health and cognitive function.
The different benefits of the various types of activity (or non-activity) for the mind and body really need to be part of our daily rhythms, but they're especially important when we're Busy. So how about we all just have a little lie down now?