Rest vs. Relaxation (and Why It Matters for Creatives)

How Rest Can Make You More Creative (via Wild Words)

From bubble baths to flipping through magazines, pedicures or lunch with girlfriends, there are myriad ways for us to slow down. And if you’re the kind of person who prioritizes self-care, what I’m about to say might come as a surprise. These activities—while relaxing—aren’t actually restful, and it’s limiting your creative potential.  

Rest versus Relaxation

In her book Daring to Rest, Karen Brody writes:

“Rest is not active. To rest is to surrender from the active, the goals, and the will to achieve something. Activities like going on a bike ride keep you focused on your outer world. Rest invites you to experience the gentle exchange between your outer world and inner world.”

Unfortunately, this means go-to self-care rituals, however well-intentioned, aren’t actually restoring your body at the deepest level. (Yes, that includes reading and writing, too.) These activities might be relaxing, but since your eyes and mind stay engaged, it forces you to stay mentally active and keep your nervous system stimulated. And that’s where yoga nidra—a sleep-based meditation practice—comes in.

Yoga nidra stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to help reduce stress and anxiety, and increase energy. From a creativity perspective, yoga nidra helps you release unhelpful patterns (raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced self-doubt!), get clarity on your projects, and bring intention to your writing practice. This kind of meditation actually guides you to the deepest brain wave states where creativity can really blossom. Just imagine all the writing you could do if you weren’t so tired all the time!

Rest vs. Relaxation (and Why It Matters for Creatives)

How Yoga Nidra Helped Me Write My Book

I first discovered yoga nidra at the end of 2017, shortly after I’d finished a six-month push promoting my first book, Eat This Poem. I was pretty run down and sluggish, and although I couldn’t pinpoint the exact problem, I had a nagging feeling I wasn’t showing up as my best self to anything anymore—my family, my job, and definitely not my writing.

My son had just turned two, and I was still struggling to find my footing as both a writer and a mother, so when I heard Karen Brody talking about yoga nidra on a podcast, I felt like I had nothing to lose by giving it a try. Little did I know that this curiosity would lead to leaning on yoga nidra as part of my support system as I began writing my second book.

Although lying down to practice yoga nidra took precious time away from sitting in my writing chair, it was worth it every time because over a period of a few weeks, I started to feel the fog of fatigue lift. I was more like myself again, happier, more present, and actually had energy to fuel my writing.

Here’s an example. One of my typical rules is no writing after dinner. I don’t like jumping back onto my computer after the day’s done, but with a deadline looming, I was forced to make exceptions. Thanks to yoga nidra, I was able to do a quick meditation that actually gave me enough energy to write in the evening, something I’d never had a history of doing well. So although I felt like working full-time and family life left me little time to write, I was able to find space during a time that was usually out of the question.

Well over a year later, I can’t imagine my writing life without yoga nidra. Not only does it help me feel well-rested in my daily routine, but the extra energy allows me to show up for the things that matter most, including my writing.