For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a napper. In college, I’d break up my studies to rest my head on the desk and doze off for a few minutes once or twice a day. Occasionally I’d nod off in early afternoon classes and once, in graduate school, I fell asleep during a seminar I was leading! An awkward moment in my academic career, to put it mildly.
Nowadays, I usually lie down in bed after lunch for a nap which usually lasts between 20-30 minutes. Sometime when I’m reading, I’ll close my eyes for a very short bit of sleep. I always feel surprisingly rested after these short naps.
Ever since I discovered the Alexander Technique some 45 years ago, and even more since becoming an Alexander teacher a few years later, I’ve spent 15 or 20 minutes a day in the Constructive Rest (CR) lying down position. When I get up from that, I usually feel more ease in my body and have a sense of my body being a bit decompressed. (You can learn about the many benefits of CR, and how to do it yourself at Constructive Rest.)
If all that time napping and lying in the CR position seems a little excessive, I also find that when I’m able to to go to sleep at night without setting the alarm, my “natural” sleep time is generally fairly short – usually 6 or 7 hours at most. On those few days when I have to skip my mid-day nap, my sleep time usually gets a little longer.
In retrospect, it’s a little surprising to me that I’ve kept these 2 self-care practices separate in my mind. If I was in the CR position and felt drowsy, I’d hop off the table and take a short nap. And when I’d go over the details of the CR position with my students, I advice them to do the same, saying something like: “If you’re starting to fall asleep, that means that you’re better off taking a nap in bed and then returning to CR later.”
A few months ago, the thought occurred to me that since I always napped on my back, and usually fell asleep almost instantly, there might be some advantage in sliding a 6″ foam roller under my knees to provide some of the benefits on CR. Doing this in no way diminished the refreshing benefits of my nap and, additionally, produced some of the same helpful effects of “true” CR.
I mentioned this new practice of mine on my colleague Imogen Ragone’s Facebook Page in response to a post of hers about the benefits of napping. My comment was a partial inspiration for her to write a brilliant blog titled Can You Nap Constructively? I highly recommend reading it.
Here is Imogen demonstrating one version of CR:
What was eye-opening to me in her blog was that really there is no reason why you can’t start with CR and then, if you do get sleepy, make a little adjustment and morph right into a nap! And then when you wake up, shift back to CR! Seems obvious in retrospect but it had never occurred to me before.
As you may know from all the recent favorable press it’s received, napping has been shown to have all sorts of beneficial effects. It’s even become acceptable in the business community with some companies providing “Nap Rooms” for the benefit of their employees. These companies have found a bit of napping makes their employees happier and more productive.
Although not as well known, Constructive Rest has a long history of helping Alexander Technique students and teachers – and others – improve their functioning.
They’re both powerful self-help methods and, it turns out, they can be combined at times, allowing you to get the benefits of both.
I’d love to hear your experiences with napping and CR below and/or on Facebook.
Dog image copyright: chalabala / 123RF Stock Photo