Unplug & Recharge//

Taking a Break Is Literally One of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Brain

This is why.

Courtesy of  ALFRED PASIEKA/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images 

Exploring the idea of a healthy break has become so important to me. It could look different for each individual person. Maybe a healthy break for you is going for a walk, while maybe someone else is writing a book about walking, so they need another outlet. A break could be making a meal, which to some people is a chore called “feeding yourself.” But I know in my busy world of always wanting to do, do, do, sometimes the simple act of making a salad is the greatest gift of not working.

One of my favorite ways to take a break is stretching, light movement and yoga. But, again, dancing and movement are in so, so many ways my work in this world. So here we are again, facing the deeply gray areas of the entire idea of this book.

But in terms of what feels like my career — writing books, teaching — I have found that movement without expectation (so not specifically tied to research and lesson planning) can be a freedom from working. Working in the job sense, that is.

Having a consistent movement practice, whether this is walking, dancing, yoga or stretching, keeps us embodied and attached to our bodies. Being embodied is a way of staying attuned to ourselves, which keeps us available and in service to our communities.

Often when I work at home, the first things I do are to make sure I have a snack and to lay my yoga mat out. This way, when it is time to take a break, I am already held by the universe and prepared. In my tired state, I don’t have to think about if I should roll out my yoga mat, because I’ve done it pre–work session. And when it is time to take a break, I can just step onto it.

Yoga has come in and out of my life in many ways, but even the smallest leap into this practice — child’s pose or legs up the wall — can be incredibly grounding when I am all over the place.
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The beauty of a practice of movement (or stillness) is that we learn to let our body be our anchor. Learning the language of sensation and what it means to honor ourselves as we explore our capacity comes with the territory. As we navigate the many layers of our experience, there’s an opportunity to reclaim ourselves and make the shift from scattered to steady.

A major gift of practice is that as it deepens, answers to questions like “Is this right for me?” or “What do I need right now?” come more naturally, because we learn to move from the knowing of our bodies. It doesn’t necessarily make things easy, but it does make things simple.

The tricky part about creating space to pause and practice is that at first it will need to be deliberate. It might even feel forced. Soon you’ll start to taste the sweetness of it all, which comes from knowing that every time you choose to pause, you are choosing yourself.

—Rachelle Knowles, Yoga Teacher

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SING. WRITE. PLAY.
by Brandi Harper, knitter

  • I rise and drink water before scrolling through my phone.
  • Then comes a cleanse with apple cider vinegar, lemon water, or kombucha.
  • The morning begins with a smoothie for now and the making of a green juice for later.
  • I choose three asanas and do them at home.
  • I cook a meal three times a week.
  • I practice hot yoga three times a week.
  • I go on a date with myself once a month.
  • Sing. Write. Pray. These can never happen often enough.
  • And I’m honoring daily the neurosis of always doing things in threes.

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Take out a separate piece of paper. Write down your answers to these questions. Tape them to your wall.

  • What does a 15-minute break look like? Legs up the wall, a walk around the block, drinking a glass of water?
  • What does an hour of not working look like?
  • What does five hours of not working look like?
  • Okay, here we go, what does one whole damn day of not working look like?
  • What is a vacation?
  • What is a work trip?
  • Do I want work and vacation to be the same thing? (It’s totally okay if you do, but I know I have gone on “work vacations” where I totally forgot to carve out non-work time, so then when I was actually taking a break, I just felt so guilty for not working!)

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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