In a world that's constantly telling us to get up and move, taking time to relax can be as difficult for some people as making the time to get active is for others. The truth is, however, that getting off your feet and getting horizontal is incredibly beneficial to your mental and physical health.
Mental Benefits of Lying Down
I’m not advocating going on extended bed rest, but taking a few minutes every day to find a quiet, relaxing place to lie down will help you gain a deeper sense of mental clarity. In this horizontal posture, your body is able to release entirely, and as a result, it's easier for your mind to follow suit.
Many yoga practitioners believe that lying down also brings us closer to the earth and helps sooth and center our minds. Relaxing this mental muscle will reduce stress, and reducing stress in our lives not only improves our mental health, but our physical health as well.
Physical Benefits of Lying Down
Stress has been linked to a spread of nasty diseases, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. By lying down, we are mitigating the likelihood of developing these potentially fatal illnesses by releasing stress.
On a more bio-mechanical level, we are also calming our nervous system, improving our posture and allowing our muscles to fully relax. Lying down is a particularly solid exercise for those with lower back pain - and as anyone who's sat playing poker for hours at a time will tell you, lower back pain is no joke. It doesn’t only mess with your body, but it also screws with your ability to concentrate.
Napping vs. Constructive Rest
It's important to note here that when I am talking about lying down, I'm not talking about taking a nap - though there are certainly benefits of napping. I am referring to what the Alexander Technique calls Constructive Rest - a more mindful way of lying down in a semi-supine position that promotes that solid spinal alignment and mental/physical tension release.
(The Alexander Technique is a practice that teaches you how to become more mindful of how your body moves, and how those movements are impacting your mental and physical well-being and performance.)
How to Rest Constructively
- As I mentioned, Constructive Rest isn't totally supine; you are going to be on your back, but instead of stretching your legs out, you're going to bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. This is what is going to promote optimal spine health and help release tension.
- In addition to finding a quiet, calm place, you're going to want to lie on the floor. You want a hard surface since that will properly support your back. A carpeted floor is fine, as is using a yoga mat - just don't lie on a mattress or overly cushy surface (like a couch or daybed). Hard is better.
- Next, put a few books under your head (not pillows; remember, nothing cushy). You won't need many; you don't want your chin tucked down or your head to tip back.
- Once your head is positioned and your knees are bent, rest your hands on your stomach, allowing your elbows to gently widen away.
- Now focus on your back and shoulders. Be conscious of your back being supported by the floor, facilitating the total relaxation of your shoulders and lengthening of your body.
- Breathe deeply and evenly, being sure to fully inhale and exhale.
The good news is you don't have to set aside much time to practice Constructive Rest. For ideal results, aim for 10-20 minutes – however, a few minutes every day will still yield incredible benefits.
Constructive Rest is proof that the best things in life really are free, so give it a try. You'll feel rested and rejuvenated, almost immediately.
Ideal Rest Periods for Optimal Poker Play
For those looking to put in extended sessions, I’d recommend planning two 3 hours sessions with a period of active rest. This will improve results by as much as 50%. An even more ideal split would be three 2 hour sessions with 2 breaks in between.
Remember, it's not a competition of who can play the longest, and there will always be soft spots in the game, just make sure you get your rest so that you don't become one of those soft spots!