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The 7 Kinds of Rest & How Yoga Can Help Us With Them All

Updated: Jun 5

How are you? Feeling well-rested? Have a great night's sleep? Feeling centred & energised for the day ahead?

Lucky you if you answered yes to all the above!

I'll wager that on (m)any given day(s), many of us might answer more truthfully that we're feeling depleted. Sluggish. Overwhelmed. Under-resourced.

Tired despite having slept. Empty-feeling despite being well-fed. Uninspired despite having access to endless information & media.

Probably that we've simply got too much on the TO-DO list & too little happening on the fun, joy, & relaxation front.

Maybe even apathetic, despite caring deeply about our friends, families, communities & the world around us.

Perhaps feeling disconnected to both our sense of inner & outer purpose & from our loved ones, despite the ever-growing digital connectedness that suffuses our day-to-day lives.

We may need to consider that we are fundamentally not 'well-RESTed'.

And that we simply do not recognise how important & health-enhancing non-sleeping forms of REST are for us.

And that we likely don't know enough about these other forms of REST.

I sure didn't.

Sleep & rest are not the same thing.

It was with great interest that I came across the work of Dr. Saundra Daulton-Smith.

Dr. Saundra has a great short Ted Talk on the 7 Kinds of REST.

It is just 10 minutes long Yogis so do check out what she means by the 7 Kinds of REST.


Take just two of these 7. Let's take both social and sensory rest. How might these apply to us? I'll give you a couple of personal examples.

It took me a very, very long time to realise that despite not being a 'shy' or 'quiet' person, I am actually by nature, by inclination, more of a private 'introvert'. People can be extremely unclear on this aspect of being - both about themselves and/or other people.

Even though I am very comfortable with talking to strangers on a bus or a plane; even though I am not terrified of 'public speaking' and would likewise not dread having to start a new job or move somewhere new, I can quite easily end up feeling overloaded & depleted if I am surrounded by too many people, for too long.

For example, big busy noisy stimulus-rich indoor shopping centres wreck me, very quickly. Much more than running a half-marathon would or going on a 3 hour hike!

All the lights, the noise, the hard surfaces, the crowds - all of it for me is both socially and sensorially over-stimulating after c. 60-90 minutes max.

Whereas friends and family of mine would happily shop all day, delighting and taking energy from the 'buzz' and crowds, while they'd be horrified at the thought of giving a speech or asking a stranger for their life story.

And neither sensibility, neither approach to life is right or wrong, good or bad.

We just are wired differently, some of us a little, some of us a lot.

But we all need to become aware of what feeds us, what nourishes us, and what takes from us, what wrecks us.

My workarounds to this shopping centre example above have been to

a) set a time limit &

b) have both a shopping list of items & list of places/shops &

c) shop as much as possible only in town, i.e., prioritise street-shopping where I get to go in & out of shops, rather than from shop-to-shop internally (or, in my mind, INFERNALLY!) in a shopping centre &

d) order ahead so I can 'click & collect' when it's a shopping centre that's my only choice & finally &

e) limit my overall shopping anyway. We all have too much stuff but that's another story!

Ditto big parties. I was known for quite often 'taking off' at some stage during parties & basically, getting away from the crowds & going for a nap. And back then, I had no notion why. I never thought it was off or odd & my friends just got used to it.

Eventually I learned to do the 'Phantom Fade' and just go home, rather than grinning & bearing it (aka disappearing & napping). Adulting comes to us all eventually ;-).

Smaller get-togethers are generally a-ok for me though there is usually a point where my inner timer is saying "time to go".

And then the 'REST' is not sleep or a nap.

It's usually walking in the woods, or getting on my Yoga mat for a short restorative practice or even just doing a little therapeutic weeding, cooking or tidying.

A sort of 'balancing' reset of 'active REST' far from the madding crowds...

Trying to avoid the battery running out is the gist of it Yogis.

Dr Saundra talks about this 'battery' approach; it's the way whereby we identify the people, places or activities that either give us a boost or drain us.

There are many different kinds of ways each of us can find the right REST 'reset' for ourselves.

And these ways need to kindly and respectfully encompass our introversion/extroversion 'levels', where we are on the neurodivergence scale, whether we work full-time or part-time, in paid or unpaid work, & whatever our age, health or income status is (* please see Tip 6 for more on this point).

It is neither practical or financially feasible for most of us to pop off to a spa for an hour in a sensory deprivation tank every time we feel over-wired; to ditch all obligations when we're stressed; or to give up on all our hobbies and interests when we're feeling stretched beyond our actual capacity.

Like the old cliched Tech Support Helpdesk advice, a straightforward reboot every now & then might be all we need. A little down time. Short regular breaks. Meditation pauses. A 15 minute walk. Turning off the radio, tv or podcast background noise. Ditching the app notifications and dings.

Whatever strategy we identify, it needs to be doable. It shouldn't mean us having to ditch ALL our responsibilities, or withdrawing from ALL fun social activites or give up on ALL our work. But some wise 'editing' might need doing. It's never ALL or NOTHING - find the balance Yogis, the one that works for you and your life and your energy.

A good friend shared the 4 D's with me, after we'd discussed the 7 Kinds of REST.

I share them gladly with you here. These 'time-management' tips do have applicability outside the world of work & may just help us with our state of REST. Some of these pop up in the tips below but they're really rather self-explanaotry I reckon.

  1. DO

  2. DITCH


  4. DELAY

Tip #1 - Recognise that sleep & rest are not the same thing.

Sleep is amazing. It's crucial. But sleep does NOT equal rest.

Yes, it's probably the most important (physical) aspect of rest but it's just one big piece of the much bigger whole.

If we rely on sleep alone to 'power' us through our days, weeks & lives, we will likely experience at some stage a sense of diminished capability, as well as diminished enjoyment of life.

"We think we have rested because we have slept" – Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

So many people have experienced & continue to experiece burnout, apathy, frustration, depression, and other mental health challenges. That widespread state of being pre-dates Covid 19 & it sure post-dates it too.

As Dr Saundra mentions in her Ted Talk, we're years into the so-called 'Sleep Revolution' and yet so many people are as exhausted as ever. It doesn't matter how many weighted blankets we buy, or sleep apps we listen to, or Magnesium supplements we buy & swallow, sleep alone is not the answer.

Tip #2 - Establish deep relevant familiarity with the 7 Kinds of REST


You read my two examples above re. my Social & Sensory 'energies' being depleted & the balancing REST strageies I typically undertake.

Mental rest could take the form of consciously switching off from work and refreshing your brain with a crossword puzzle, Sudoku or Wordle; letting yourself daydream while having a cup of tea; taking a digital detox for a whole weekend; letting yourself truly avail of the 'Right To Disconnect'.

Creative rest could mean crafting, visiting a gallery, going to a concert, trying a new recipe, listening or playing music or any number of creative endeavours that nourish us on some deep level.

Spiritual could mean coming together in community with others through say prayer, Yoga or volunteering as well as other more individual solo special practices like journalling, prayer alone, meditation.

Emotional rest could mean finally asking for help, setting healthy boundaries, calling a dear friend for a heart-to-heart, bringing your very favourite people together for a special meal, going to therapy & more.

Tip #3 - Make it personally applicable

Get curious about what you have so far automatically assimilated into your day-to-day life from our culture about work, success, sleep & rest.

Like when and what you eat (al desko)? Or exercise (squeezed into 20 minutes)?

Or how you structure your work day? Or how you prioritise different tasks or jobs?

Please note that I'm very much not talking about work-only productivity hacks here.

I mean really noticing your personal preferences, abilities and even your personal 'clocks' - the times of day/night when re-arranging or re-aligning things might help you, even on the domestic and inter-personal front.

Like we don't have to always reply to every text we're sent. Or straightway.

I realised about 10 years ago that I really really disliked chatting on the phone once late afternoon hits, I can just about do a functional 4-5 minute chat max if I have to. But I'll breeze away on the phone in the morning and early day no bother. So I made that change and have happily stuck to it.

It might even end up being that you eventually make a big personal shift as a result of some success with smaller doable shifts that prioritise your REST. The kind of shift that comes from getting a taste of what REST feels like and perhaps realising you could live on less, could work less, and have more actual joy, time and freedom, even if it means 'giving up' having the latest new car or the 'destination' long-haul holiday.

Notice where in your life you feel a particular shift would help YOU on the enhancing REST front. Apply the change, no matter how small & see how it works for YOU, without judgement.

Maybe keep a journal or note results in your diary.

Frame it for yourself as an experiment. It's an iterative process.

Like life! More on this in the next tip.

Tip #4 - Mix it up

Try different approaches to what you've identified as your particular 'pressure-points' when it comes to REST and energy.

One week at work you could delegate - ask for help with something that you've just always assumed or let others assume as being 'your' job. There is often someone in the workplace who is the unnoticed, unthanked 'card, gift, cake, night-out' organiser. If it's you, state clearly it's now someone else's turn (& ummm, if it's never been you, STEP up & help out).

Another week, on the personal front, trying ditching the attendance at some particular event you really resent going to but somehow feel you 'must'. Notice how a sudden welcome gap in your schedule might disproportinately feel so freeing and spacious to you. Notice too how very likely there's no real consequences to you not being here or hey, if there are, they're really not all that important to your quality of life, in the grand scheme of things!

Another week, when you receive another request on your time, your energy, your LIFE (because that is what it is); before hitting 'reply' or 'send', before saying yes, try JUST DOING NOTHING.

Just simply delay responding to whatever it is. Sit with the potential discomfort of not having responded. Choose something very low-stakes to begin with. Develop your 'delay muscles' gradually.

Certainly in many work arenas, someone often simply shoves an issue of theirs our way if they figure a) we will jump in, boots on, sleeves rolled up & b) we can do it better for them than they can. Especially if that's what they've seen us do before.

If you can grit your teeth awhile, you'll be pleasantly surprised at often how these 'issues' magically seem to resolve themselves, without us every time having to play Mr, Mrs, Ms Fix-It.

You'll of course also have to learn to live without the 'I'm indispensable' pay-off but hey, that's a good price to pay and you might quickly realise too it was always a bad trade, at your ultimate expense.

Tip #5 - Be kind, be truthful

Making change of any kind is hard. And it will perhaps quite naturally, to some extent, affect those around us. To again quote my wise friend,

'ask for forgiveness, not permission'

Make the change(s) that are going to lead you towards a better rested state of being but don't flag it ahead or run it past anyone. Obviously such changes need to be managed by us so that we're not suddenly seriously letting ourselves or someone else down.

If there's some kind of 'blowback', the kindest thing we can do by ourselves & others is to be honest. Not to start complaining & go off on one of those dreaded 'stress-boasting' whinges.

But also not to apologise for not now meeting our former (most likely self-imposed) 'standards', whatever they were.

Simply state that we are recently recognising how we truly are, that we now realise it's not sustainable or healthy to continue on that way & that we're doing our human imperfect best to change.

Also consider that the mere fact of modelling this behaviour for others might free them to address their own struggles in this sphere. You might be surprised that not only that it might catch on but that it might create a positive feedback loop.

Tip #6 - Be conscious of what's within your control

One huge point to make here is that we need to recognise what we are up against in terms of modern life, and fatigue, stress, & so much more.

The system is stacked against so many people. Modern working life, based on neo-liberal capitalism, has designed, actually, it has manipulated our lives, based in large part still on the antiquated Victorian era factory/farming work models.

Operating as we have in this inequitable system for some time now, we now have the added menace of "always-on" mode and the "gig economy'. Working long hours, working after hours, working on weekends & even on holidays; being subjected to zero-hours contracts; having lack of tenure/security in hitherto 'stable' workplaces; working in gendered/service roles & being exploited into lesser pay for 'love & light' or so-called 'exposure' (hello Yoga-world); maybe double or even treble-jobbing; and being expected to have it 'all', to do it 'all', to even want it 'all' or just being ok with it 'all' being the way it is.

Hustle culture is a sham but its mores are being peddled and perpetuated via endless numbers of influencers on Youtube, Instagram TikTok & more. Podcasts and articles abound telling us how to 'self-optimise'.

Mindfulness in particular has been packaged and polished into a 'magic bullet' for the masses, to dupe us into thinking if we only SELF-managed and SELF-minded ourselves better, all our woes would disappear.

As if the SELF is the solution, rather than addressing and changing the unequal system our poor SELVES are trying to survive in. There's been a nasty intersection between many in the 'wellness' sphere and neoliberalism' for quite some time now.

The bromide goes 'If you're not thin, fit, rich, healthy, successful - well then, YOU just need to try harder, to work harder, to work ON yourself harder'. It's nothing to do with disparities in say access to education, to universal healthcare, to equal pay and much much more.

We have deeply embedded complex infrastructures like transport for example, that posit the car as the only 'real' easy way to get around; we have food bodies and organisations that promote and provide us with unhealthy, overly-processed 'food'; we're subjected to collective tacitly 'agreed' standards that see money as the only arbiter of status, endless new 'stuff' as the only arbiter of success, and Botox-ed blank faces and buffed Ken-bodies as the only arbiter of beauty and wellbeing. And for the most part, we have political parties and vested interest politicians who uphold it all.

We're living in what's termed a 'polycrisis' right now. Although adding those words 'right now' feels redundant. Global warming/the climate crisis has been DECADES in the/our making; sadly wars are nothing new; and ditto political turmoil.

So, I ask you - is it any wonder we're shattered? And why do we assume it's all our own fault?

It is truly sinister to suggest and very sad to assume that it is the work and responsibility of each of us as individuals to simply rest, sleep, move, work & eat "better"so that we can FUNCTION better as satisfied mindful little worker-bee 'economic' units.

Tip #7 - Use Your Yoga Practice To Cultivate Awareness

This final tip leads me back to both the subject of REST and back to the very beginning and end of this post Yogis.

I mentioned at the top that Yoga can be a tool to help with us with the 7 Kinds Of Rest.

I do not mean this lightly.

On a literal but not unimportant level, Yoga can actually fulfil quite a few of the 7 Kinds of Rest for us. As a mind-body-nervous-system practice, Yoga involves focus and concentration, balance within and without, conscious breathing, and inviting a sense of harmony into the different aspects of our being.

It's of course a form of 'Active Rest' on the Physical side; but just as important, it incorporates Mental, Emotional and even Sensory REST.

For some it is also truly a Spiritual pratice. And it can well prove to be Creative for some of us too. At the very least, it may 'refill' the internal tanks for us so that we can go out there and be creative in other spheres.

Less literally, Yoga to me is one of the best ways of learning to cultivate awareness, to create and recognise boundaries and to truly develop a sense of self-sovereignity and harness our intuition. This is not 'woo-woo'; these findings have been researched and published in academic/scientific journals, paper and books, such as Bessel Van Der Kolk's famous "The Body Keeps The Score".

On this subject, I learnt greatly from just two of my many teachers how to take my 'Yoga off the Mat'. One was Jivana Heyman, the founder of Accessible Yoga and an amazing long-time activist and Yogi. The other was Donna Farhi, leading through her great example, by saying no to and calling out the worst excesses, harmful behaviours and damaging historical 'group-think' within the Yoga and 'wellness' worlds.

I recently caught Matt Damon on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. It was an episode where they do the 'Colbert Questionnaire' - a quick-fire 15 question 'life-examination'!

To the question, Describe the Rest of Your Life in 5 Words, Matt Damon answered:

"Family, Friends, Work, Service, Joy"

What good are we to the world if we are only focussed on ourselves, endlessly noodling with self-care, seeking to 'live our best lives' and not being aware of the world and its' inequities around us?

What good is working incredibly hard if we don't have time to see our favourite people?

Or to participate in our favourite hobbies?

What good is acquiring the latest digital toys and fashion pieces if we can't respect, keep and enjoy a safe, healthy and sustainable community and wider world around us?

There are many kinds of Yoga. And I do not mean the modern Instagram malarkey like 'Doga' or 'Techno-Yoga' or 'Heavy Metal Yoga' (these are all real). I mean Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga. Bhakti is the Yoga of service. To a Bhakti Yogi, service is an endeavour that lifts all, acts of service becoming a devotional act. To a Karma Yoga, 'right action' is a form of prayer in a sense. And these have modern applicability.

Be of service and get to see beyond yourself and you'll find yourself nourished through the process (help a neighbour, donate time to a local shelter). Devote yourself to a cause and be pleasantly surprised at how this form of 'Active Rest' might lift you out of 'weltschmerz' apathy and make you feel generally more optimistic and connected to life, your own and life around you (join your local Tidy Towns, Men's Shed, Meals on Wheels, Beach-Clean Group or or teach a life-skill to a group of refugees). 'Do No Harm' (Ahimsa in Yogic terms) and learn to live more lightly on this earth.

It can all start on the Yoga Mat - but do just start

Keep it real Yogis. The great 'state' that is true REST wasn't built in a day.

But it can be enhanced each day.

Try next time you get on your Yoga mat to set an intention, a Sankalpa centring on REST, whichever one you like.

I'd love to know how you get on with this please so do please let me know, if and when you like.

Back in I think February this year, one week, I set an intention to be 'peacefully productive'.

Even just remembering those two words every now and then helped me to be more moderate in my goals and to mind my energy better. Anyone with a serious chronic health condition knows only too well how important it is to do this.

It's not easy. But it's worth doing. And it gets more doable, the more we do it.

A bit like Yoga Yogis eh 😉.

If you made it this far, phew, well done! And I would sincerely like to thank you for reading. It's been a while since I posted so a fair bit has been 'stored up' Yogis - other new posts to come over time won't (always...) be this long.


If you feel like having a RESTful day out, to perhaps even put into practice some of the above for yourself, here's your quick reminder that there are just two places left on our June 15th Yoga Day Retreat. An opportunity for time out, fresh air, community (but not a crowd!), plenty of movement, great food and plenty of RESTful practice time too.

I invite you to BOOK HERE.

Yours in REST

Om Shanti

Yoga Lili 🙏🏽☺️✨

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