THE DIGESTIVE BENEFITS OF REST
Rest is such an elusive thing these days. We’re all so busy, even when we do rest, we often don’t choose truly restful activities. I used to think I was resting when I watched tv, did an enjoyable hobby, or surfed the internet. While those things may be good for other reasons and may be restful to your body, “rest” means to truly give your brain and nervous system a break.
Try to think of the last time you just sat or lay in silence and listened to your body and breath - it’s ok if you can’t remember. If you can, that’s great (now pass this article on to your friends that need it)!
Why is rest important for digestive health?
When we don’t get enough true rest, our body is often stuck in fight-or-flight mode - which is not supportive of a happy digestive system. When our bodies are constantly posed to fight or flee, because of traffic, a stressful job or always being on the go, blood is siphoned away from our digestive system to support our immediate survival.
Resting our body AND brain together is a signal to our nervous system that we are safe and can continue with non-emergency functions, such as digestion. Other benefits of rest include a calmer demeanor, better sleep and improved resilience to stress.
How do I rest, you ask?
This can be any quiet, physically supported activity for about 15-20 minutes a day. You can:
● Lay in bed or on the couch
● Do 1-2 supported yoga poses (see below)
● Relax in a warm Epsom salt bath
● Drink a cup of herbal tea and look at nature
It is important to take enough time to settle in; the first 5-10 minutes are just to work out the kinks, wiggles, and thoughts. The remaining time is to truly enjoy the benefits of rest - so don’t cheat yourself!
Looking for new ideas to rest? Try a version of the poses in the images below for 15-20 minutes, depending on your body. You can use bed pillows and blankets, no yoga props needed. Doesn’t sound like you? Try it first and see what happens :)
● If your head is turned to one side in a pose like in the first picture above, always try to spend half your rest with your head turned to each side.
● Stick with it - even if you are practiced at resting, your brain may be pretty active for the first 5-10 minutes. Keep coming back to your body and breath until your 20 minutes are up - you may be surprised at how much quieter your body and mind become with some practice.
● If silence feels too hard at first (if your thoughts are too active, distracting or loud), you can always play restful music in the background. Try music without words to not over-stimulate your brain. Youtube has many free options if you search for “relaxing music.”
● Some days you may not be able to calm or quiet your brain, but your rest was still successful if you saw ANY improvement and it is still a great thing for your physical body.
● Come out of your rest slowly and gently, and take it with you throughout your day!
Feel free to ask us if you need help finding time or motivation to rest. We will help you integrate your body and nervous system together. Your digestion and brain will thank you :)
- Written by Kimberly Vair, MS, RDN
Master of Science in Nutrition
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist