I made a quarter note rest, which in musical notation is a sign to be silent for one beat. Stratoz designed and cut out the pieces of the rest sign, and then I flowed around it with green glass, and as I worked, I had the idea to make repeat signs in the corners, rest, repeat, rest, repeat. I was smitten with it, and tempted to keep it in my studio as a reminder to take breaks.
Alexander Teacher Imogen Ragone wrote about The “Restorative Niche” and Constructive Rest. Imogen had read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, and was taken with Cain’s idea of a Restorative Niche, a place you got to return to your true self, and how it resembled the the idea of Constructive Rest in the Alexander Technique, also known as Active Rest or Semi-Supine: lying down in a position that allows you to let the tension in your body release.
I am an introvert, and being alone is a way to restore my energy. I enjoy being with people, whether over for pizza or conversations over coffee, but if I don’t give myself time to recharge, I am quickly exhausted.
I came across some images of sculpture by Sean Henry which makes Constructive Rest larger than life. “Catafalque” at Salisbury Cathedral is bronze with oil paint and brings a meditative sense of the wider world while yet being grounded in the self. Henry has created sculptures of people seated, lying down, sitting, and they have a kind of quiet, considered, contemplative quality.
I remember reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s assertion that it’s helpful to spend some time on the floor each day. It is a reorientation of the body that can also reorient the mind. I often found it difficult to find a comfortable position on the floor because it was hard on my back, but Constructive Rest allows my body a way to be at ease.
I found drawings by Julia Kay on Flickr. The one below is called “Active Rest” and I love the dark blue watercolor that feathers into lighter shades down to the feet, a visualization of releasing all the held places, as we let the floor hold us.
One of the most difficult things for me is taking breaks. When I am working on mosaics in the studio, I have years of habits that are so a part of me that I don’t even notice them, both physical and mental. I often feel a need to finish something once I’ve started it, even if my body hurts or has tensed up. I also have a belief, that is slowly being altered, that once I have tension in my body there’s no way to let go of it and I need to forge ahead. Through my Alexander Lessons I am learning that I can let go of tensions, if I offer my body the opportunity.
I’ve been adding Constructive Rest to my day, after a stretch in the studio or at the computer, and especially after grouting. I lay down on the bedroom floor and rest my legs up on the bed. This lets my lower back release completely. I put a book under my head that helps release my neck, neither scrunched upward or downward. Imogen has a photo on her blog of this version, which is a possibility if your back is troubling you. She has a guiding audio at Stress Reliever: The Alexander Technique Practice of Lying Down, which you can listen to.
More images on my Pinterest Board Alexander Technique and Ease in the Art Studio.