Back in 2017 I did something a little weird.
I went halfway across the world to do nothing.
It took three flights and 48hrs to get there. It cost me a lot of avocado toasts.
I went to a place called the Feathered Pipe Ranch, in Helena, Montana. The reason why I went so far and sacrificed so many avo toasts to get there, was to study Restorative Yoga with a woman named Judith Lasater.
Judith Lasater has written several books on Restorative Yoga. If there is anyone who knows anything about teaching people how to do nothing, it’s her.
And so I went.
I was picked up at the airport (ten steps wide) by a guy wearing a cowboy hat, and shuttled off into the mountains, into the big, quiet expanse of The Ranch, with no idea what I was getting myself into.
Although I’d been practicing meditation and Restorative Yoga for years, when I settled into my wood log room I began to panic. What was I going to do here for an entire week? Sure, I can chill in a twenty minute savasana, or a ten minute meditation, but a WHOLE WEEK WITHOUT WORK or doing anything in the middle of nowhere?!
It was terrifying. It took three days of running around the ranch in between yoga sessions trying to schedule in as much relaxation as possible (sauna at 11am. Write a blog post at 11:45. Read at 12:30pm. Lunch at 1pm) before I even began to let go and just be.
Often when we stop, one of two things can occur:
- We are so exhausted pass out and fall asleep
- We become very resistant. The mind whirls, the body feels fidgety. This is the experience of anyone who has ever said “I can’t relax, I need a strong practice.”
Neither of these reactions are wrong or bad. They’re both great. They are a natural part of the process of learning to slow down in a life that is deeply overstimulated. These reactions are a loud and clear sign savasana is exactly where you need to be.
Beneath all the fidgeting, overthinking and the snoring, lies what is called the Relaxation Response. It is a physiologically measurable state that is not sleep, but a state of complete rest. The Relaxation Response is perhaps the true survival mechanism for the world we live in today. It is critical for re-setting our nervous system, for fertility, digestion, repair, creativity and productivity.
We just have to re-learn how to access it.
I went all the way to Montana because Restorative Yoga is one of the best ways to re-develop a relationship with rest. To finally experience it again. To value and revere it. To find a place for it in our day and in our yoga practice.
By the time I had arrived, fully, at the feathered pipe ranch, it was time to pack up and leave. To say goodbye to the chipmunks and the ice tea and the room full of bolsters. While I spent much of my time at The Ranch in a resistant, whirly, fidgety state, I felt the deeply positive reverberation of being in that nothingness for weeks and months to come.
Restorative Yoga is like this. Sometimes, you set yourself up in a posture and the relaxation comes up and grabs you, pulls you right in. Sometimes, the relaxation arises only after you’ve patiently waited for your mind to perform its song and dance about the million other things you should be doing. And sometimes, it only arises the moment you’re asked to wiggle your fingers and toes.
Yet all of the time, you take the feeling with you.
Usually, you’ll come back wanting more.
I sincerely hope you’ll try it.