Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians (and normal people)

The Importance of De-stressing, De-caffeinating, and Resting

I've been in a movement challenge through the Liberated Body, and I've been thinking about the importance of resting in the course of the day.  In the west (and in classical music) we tend to just go-go-go, and every time we feel tired, overworked, and exhausted, we refuel with caffeine.  There's an expectation in music especially that we just have to keep practicing, keep auditioning, and keep stressing out all the time, and as you know from previous writings, that starts to affect the physiological function of your cells, internal organs, etc., courtesy of your sympathetic nervous system. 

How many musicians do you know that drink a teensy bit too much caffeine in an effort to just do more?

How many musicians do you know that drink a teensy bit too much caffeine in an effort to just do more?

Think about how most Americans work out/exercise:  they don't move much all day (we live in cars, sit at desks,etc.) and then do the MOST INSANE WORKOUT EVER for 45 minutes or an hour.  And then go sit again.  What kind of yoga do most studios offer?  HOT SWEATY (intense) flow and go.  What's the problem with this?  Our bodies need time to do the opposite-to decaffeinate, to stop moving so intensely (if that's our problem), to relax, and allow cellular renewal.  Now I don't necessarily mean that you need to quit your caffeine altogether- I just want you to notice how much coffee/tea/etc. you drink, and if that's your first reaction when you're fading in energy level. 

Simple drawing of Alexander Technique's Constructive Rest position. 

Simple drawing of Alexander Technique's Constructive Rest position. 

How do we help out this cellular renewal and parasympathetic response?  Simply put, constructive rest (which is similar to a yoga savasana).  Constructive rest is an opportunity to lie down (floor, bed, couch, yoga mat) with the knees bent, eyes closed, and arms relaxed.  Some folks prefer their hands on the belly or I prefer hands along side the torso.  Constructive Rest shows up as a concept in many different movement modalities- yoga, Alexander Technique, physical therapy, and massage therapy, to name a few. 

Why do this? 

-This triggers parasympathetic response, which can help with anxiety, stress, insomnia, etc.

- This gives the body the opportunity for a natural spinal curve, which may be difficult to maintain in sitting and standing

- Your psoas (AKA. your own personal filet mignon) has the opportunity to release.  That doesn't have to mean anything right now, but just trust me, it's a good thing.

- Your mind has the opportunity to slow down, and start noticing thoughts slow down.  Combining breath awareness with deregulating action gives you a conduit to thought awareness. 

Here's a beautiful quote from restorative yoga teacher Judith Lasater (from this interview) on the importance of restoring and lying down:

There is something spiritually profound about being still and watching your mind.Most of our unhappiness is not created by what happens to us but by what we tell ourselves about it. With Restorative you create a space to watch the rising and falling of thoughts. And then the most important thing we can do can happen- we can dis-identify with our thoughts, “I am having a thought of anger, a thought of sadness, but it’s not who I am.” We distract ourselves with entertainment. We pay people in our culture the most amount of money who can distract us the best. 20 minutes a day to notice the thoughts that never end. The chatter that never ceases. And slowly over time we have space between our thoughts and our reaction or the words we choose.
— Judith Hanson Lasater

Let me make this clear- this is not a nap, at least not intentionally.  This is active rest.  When should you do this?  Whenever you have time/space to do so, and you're energy is flagging.  Maybe you're preparing nonstop for a recital, competition, or audition-make sure you're restoring every day!  Maybe you have difficulties with stress and sleep-try this.  SO many things in the body are benefited by taking time out to rest and de-stress every day, and in adding this to my self-care repertoire, I have more energy and sleep better. 

Want a detailed video on exactly how to do this?  Brooke (from the liberated body) gives an awesome youtube video setup.

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