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What is Proper Rest?

In the ancient Mayan healing tradition, proper rest is more important than proper nutrition. This tradition believed that the human body requires rest to cleanse and organize itself more than it needs food. This dovetails with western studies around sleep deprivation.  People have been proven to develop brain lesions after eight days of no sleep, but can last for much longer without water or food.

Mayan tradition teaches that proper rest has four overlapping components


When physical activity stops, the respiratory rate falls and the availability of oxygen to the brain, heart and lungs quadruples. This allows repair and reorganization to happen in the organs and at the cellular level to a degree which cannot happen when our bodies need our oxygen to be physically active



the digestive system ceases to process new food and focuses on digesting the food already within it. It sends nutrition to where it is needed and diverts waste products to our organs of elimination.  



Muscles relax and energy is used to clean, repair and nourish those tissues instead of using them for activity 


the brain shifting into the dream (REM) state allows us to process information that we’ve received during the waking hours and integrate it with that from previous experiences. Instead of taking in new information as it would during waking hours, your brain is now processing and organizing.

Good rest does not necessarily mean sleep. It can incorporate any combination of the above four components. Repetitive exercise which changes the respiratory rate and digestive systems in the above ways is an excellent source of rest.  Meditation and deep breathing are counted among good sources of rest. Hypnosis and daydreaming also qualify. Watching a movie or listening to music which is not overly stimulating count, and repetitive activities one can do without having to think about them work as well. These include repetitive prayer, knitting, beadwork, gardening, cleaning, etc.

When rest is viewed this way, it almost becomes irrelevant to count hours of sleep at night. The amount of sleep needed depends entirely on the amount of processing needed —either of toxins, emotions, activities, or other assaults on the body, mind or soul. If you lead a clean lifestyle, i.e. you need to cleanse your body very little, and you are at peace in your soul, 4-6 hours of sleep at night is more than adequate to keep oneself healthy. The lower number would be during the warm seasons, and the higher number during the cold seasons.


Try to evaluate your rest and sleep patterns through this lens, and you can get an idea of how clean your body is and how peaceful your soul is. This creates a general guide as to what you might want to work on in either or both areas.

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