Let me tell you a secret I have learned through all the years I have worked as a Yoga Therapist: everyone is tired. Tired, exhausted, fatigued, burnt-out, call it what you like.
Even those clients who turn up at the sessions claiming “not to be tired” or “full of energy!” The moment we practice a few stretches they start yawning, and soon -immediately – after they lie down, wrapped in blankets at the end of the class, they start snoring. I mean, really snoring.
I have only just started the lying down relaxation and wham! The student is already twitching and making little sounds of deep stupor. I then get a warm feeling, like you do when you see a sleeping baby. So sweet, so tired after a long day, except that it is 10 am in the morning.
In denial… until it’s too late
The funny thing is, some people are not even aware of this. When we finish the session with a cup of tea, I tell them that they have fallen asleep during the relaxation. However, they totally deny it, explaining in detail how they were fully awake and they could hear everything. Right…
This is actually possible in certain stages of relaxation, but probably not the case if you are dribbling and snoring.
One particular client comes to mind. She is a young, beautiful, successful lawyer mother of two kids and comes across as a super-active woman. She keeps fit by going to the gym and doing Pilates twice a week, organises dinner parties at home, visits her sick friends. Also, comes to her Yoga Therapy classes demanding some “hard work”.
I, of course, don’t give in to her demands. Instead, I find a way to lead her into lying down on the ground. She is one of those students who falls asleep immediately even though our session is in the middle of the day. What’s worse, I cannot wake her up!!
Mariam just stays there no matter what I do or say. I even play the gong, raise my voice slightly inviting her to wake up, but nothing. No movement. She’s gone.
During our cup of tea, later on, I suggest that she might be tired of being a superwoman. She suddenly looks exhausted. But she and I know that she will go back straight into the hamster wheel.
It affects us all
Tiredness seems to be the norm these days, and we spend the day finding ways to relieve it, pretending that it is not there: cups of coffee, tea, sugar treats, power drinks, power snacks, alcohol. Even over-exercising in order to stimulate the energy reserves that, truthfully, are not there.
We only have to look at our kids. Kids are tired. We don’t let them sleep enough hours and we sign them up for several sports. We push them into competitions, piano lessons, homework support, Mandarin classes, and endless social play-dates and birthday parties.
It is not surprising that we see more and more people taking time off work with Burnout, falling sick with an auto-immune disease, lower back pain, unexplained allergies, and insomnia. How can our bodies recover from the daily beating we give it, physically and mentally? How can we keep strong to resist infections, viruses, and illness?
What we can do… or not do
I am convinced that we could solve half of the world’s health problems by reducing the number of hours that we work and run around in the day. If you are tired all day, give these simple guidelines a go. You need to be a little committed to them, but if you are fed up of being tired, they might just come at the right time for you:
I try to stick to some rules that help me keep the basic resources of my energy. This way I can take care of my clients, family, friends, and live a meaningful life.
It is important for me to make conscious decisions on how I spend my time and enjoy my moments looking out of the window and cuddling up to my husband on the couch.
These vital “moments” are like stop-overs at the gas station. Stop to breathe, read, go for a walk or sit outside to take the sun.
I love taking a break from everything and into one of my favourite pastimes: dreaming. Whether I am asleep or not.
II. Naps & Yoga Nidra
One essential part of my day is my 20-30 minute cat nap, which I take some time between 3 to 4 pm.
I send a message to my family to inform them that I am lying down – so I don’t get interrupted. Then I get cosy in my bedroom. I set up a gentle alarm to make sure I don’t over-sleep and voila! I wake up fresh and fully restored. Ready for the rest of the day.
I like to listen to a Yoga Nidra meditation, but any other form of relaxation that you enjoy will also do the trick.
III. Learn to say “no” if you are tired
When I think how many times I have committed myself to social events in one week, only to regret it straight after!
We believe that it is ok to go out three, four times in a row, but believe me, it is not. Some of the most over-tired people are those who go out too many hours, too often.
The problem is, it is not just going out. It is drinking, eating out, rushing to get there, and coming home too late. Therefore, not sleeping enough hours. This is fair enough, but only if you can stay in bed the day after and take time to recover. Not if you have to meet clients or take the kids to school the day after, and then go out again the following evening.
IV. Get lost
Literally. Every three months, take a break to the sea, the mountains, the county side, or stay where you are. Just make yourself unavailable except for the essential stuff. This could be for a long weekend or a week, but you will feel an incredible difference in yourself and your energy levels when you come back. In fact, I find these breaks really enhance my creativity and my capacity to come up with solutions and new ideas.
V. Yoga and gentle exercise
In my Yoga Therapy sessions, I also see that some of the most exhausted clients are those who over-exercise. Running, biking, cross-fit, Pilates, weight training, tennis, power yoga, you name it. Several times a week.
The result is an overdose of lactic acid, muscle pain, stiffness, sore joints, injuries and exhaustion. Regular, moderate exercise is the key to good health. It allows your body to receive all the benefits while avoiding the damage that makes your body grow older quicker.
This is, walking – at a fairly fast pace – cycling, dancing, swimming, and Yoga, in its gentle, original form.
I walk and practice yoga practically every day, and when I am on holiday I add swimming in the sea. My husband and I love to go out dancing whenever we can.
Occasionally, to protect myself from osteoporosis as I approach the menopause, I will go to the gym to do some weight lifting with light weights and fast repetitions, and body-weight exercises.
This is enough to keep me fit, energised and never have to keep an eye on the scales. I sometimes get an injury because I work with my body, but apart from that I rarely or never experience exhaustion from overdoing exercise!
VI. Breathing practice
If you have symptoms of tiredness during the day, the chances are that you are not breathing properly. Check the Instagram and Facebook posts for The Yoga Therapy Institute as I demonstrate in a video an effective breathing practice to do every day for 10 to 15 mins.
This breathing practice based on Ujayii breath was described by Max Strom as “a shot of espresso”, and I have to admit that since his workshop at the Inner Peace Conference in Amsterdam, Emile and I have been feeling its lifting effects every day! However, it does have some contra-indications so please read the posts carefully.
VII. Be aware and share
Of course, I am sometimes tired. For instance, I get easily affected by the weather and the lack of light in the Netherlands even if it is not my usual state.
My work as a Yoga Therapist requires that I have a balanced level of energy, so it is important to be fully aware of when things are not quite right.
I like to reflect on how I feel and go back to see what I did the day before. Did I take more clients than usual, did I sleep enough hours? Then I dig deeper, to find out if there is an emotional upset or a worry that is using up my energy. Normally, there is always something lurking inside.
It also helps to share your thoughts with someone you trust, such as your partner, a good friend or your therapist. You’ll be surprised how much relief you get when you tell someone how you feel. As the weight lifts off your shoulders, so will your energy levels begin to rise, and you will feel much better.
Whatever the reasons, the best thing to do when we feel exhausted is to take time for yourself and try some of the tips above. A few quiet stretches on your mat, a walk-in nature, or a short nap when no one is around. There are no rules, only moments.