Many people feel that they cannot take the time to rest. They are too busy. They think that, at least while they have the strength, resting is something they can always do later. It often seems that they frown on resting and consider it a waste of time or a frivolous indulgence.
Torah has a radically different attitude toward resting. In the Torah, the fourth of the Ten Commandments commands us to always remember and observe Shabbat (Friday night to Saturday night). Shabbat is a day for soulful, holy rest. The day of rest is adored and desired like a beloved soul mate. It is a bride and queen, the crown of every week. Shabbat teaches us how to rest.
Yoga also teaches us how to rest. In yoga, rest and relaxation are an essential part of the practice. The climax of every yoga session is the posture of rest.
Jewish tradition teaches that God's ability to stop working and rest on Shabbat is an example of immense strength.' It takes strength to stop and rest. Both Shabbat and yoga can help you to be strong enough to stop working. They can teach you the art of resting.
Is It Time to Rest Yet?
Take a deep breath right now, and then let it go. Consider: How busy are you? What is your attitude about resting? Do you ever allow yourself to stop andrest in the middle of your work? There is a time to work and a time to rest. Keep the rhythm of your life soulful-remember to rest.
Torah Yoga for Remembering to Rest
I remember the day that I decided to be less busy in my life. After several years of observing Shabbat and practicing yoga, I began to sense a rhythm different from the one around me--a slower, quieter, more soulful rhythm. I decided to leave my very busy teaching job where we were teaching children to be very busy.
At that time, people would often ask me: "Are you keeping busy?" There was an unspoken implication in the tone of the question that somehow I should be busy, that if I was busy I was doing something right. It seemed that there was something threatening to people about my not being busy. What I really wanted to answer was "No, I am not busy, thank God." I was beginning to sense that God had something to do with not being busy.
Remember to Take a Deep Breath
When the Jewish people were slaves in Egypt, they were very busy. They worked every day. They were so lost in their hard work that, for a long time, they did not even stop to take a deep breath One day, something changed within them, and they sighed. God heard their sighs, took them out of slavery (Exodus 2:23 ff.), and gave them Shabbat (in the Torah), the great gift of rest. God commanded them to remember and observe Shabbat (Exodus 20:8; Deuteronomy 5:12), to ensure that they would never become slaves to their work again.
Both Shabbat and yoga remind you to free yourself from your busy life, to take a deep breath, and to make time for resting. If you wait until all your work is done before resting, you will never get to rest. If you wait until you have time before doing yoga, you will never do it. Resting is a conscious choice to shift your attention from the busy activities of your life to something else. You may need to leave your e-mails unanswered in order to light your Shabbat candles. You may need to leave dishes in the sink in order to get to a yoga class. You can almost count on it: Shabbat and your yoga classes will come right in the middle of very important work that you feel you must do. The truth is that resting also means leaving something unfinished. Remember, however, that you are in good company. According to Jewish tradition, God stopped working and rested on Shabbat even though the world itself was not completely finished. The concept of tikkun olam (fixing the world) teaches that we humans are partners with God in completing the work of creation.
Within you, at the root of your being, there is a place of rest. The Hebrew word tnucha (posture) is built from the root word noach (rest). Resting and relaxation are at the root of yoga postures. Yoga postures take you inside to the root of rest within yourself where you can experience resting in the cells of your body.
Yoga postures can be divided into different categories. There are restorative postures that are usually effortless and relaxing. There are standing postures, back-bends, forward-bends, twists, and inversions that often require a lot of effort. Ultimately though, all yoga postures can and should be done in a relaxed, effortless way. It takes practice, however, to learn to do this. The sage Patanjali said: "Perfection in a posture is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless, and the infinite being within is reached."