pause at completion
integrate what you have learned
let it land within
In the summer of 1997 I took my first yoga class with a teacher named Betsy.
At the end of every class, Betsy would guide us to take a seated pose with our legs crossed, hinging forward, with our hands behind our back, one hand grasping the opposite wrist.
She called this a mudra.
As we followed her instruction, she would explain that we were
sealing in all the benefits of the preceding poses so you can take them all home with you tonight.
I never saw Betsy again after that summer, but this small ritual to end class obviously stuck in my nervous system.
Over 20 years later, when I was in the midst of my yoga teacher training in 2019, I learned that the ancient yogis believed that when you end a yoga practice without savasana, its like it never happened.
Savasana, corpse pose, is the typical ending pose for most yoga classes. It’s sometimes known by its lay term: the nap at the end of class.
I don’t recall having savasana in Betsy’s yoga classes, but her ending pose filled a similar role.
Whether it’s the actual savasana pose or another ending pose, the takeaway is the same:
A yoga practice needs a closing ritual: a signal to the mind and body that the practice is ending, and a moment of coming to stillness to integrate what you’ve done before you move on.
This principle did not originate with yoga, nor is it unique to yoga.
It is found in the cycles of nature, in the turning from autumn to winter — the storing of the harvest and the period of dormancy that follows.
Our modern culture has lost this essential rhythm.
We can see the shifts in macro areas, such as the resistance to rest, the 24/7 responsiveness and always-connected devices.
It also shows up in how we consume information. There was a time when we read news in a newspaper and then put the paper down. Television shows were aired one episode at a time, with a week’s wait between episodes.
The pause was built in to the structure of the delivery.
Scrolling Culture Disrupts Rhythms
Today, we feed on endless scrolls of news and content. Whether it’s your news feed, social media, podcasts, or video content, there is no limiter on our ability to consume.
The way content is delivered to us makes it easy to ignore the natural pause that used to come at the completion of an activity.
Finished a podcast? The next one is cued up and ready for you. Completed a book? The next one is waiting on your Kindle.
You can even binge watch an entire season of a television show — even an entire run of a series.
But how much of what you consume are you retaining? How much of it do you remember?
The Binging Problem
When I was growing up, the term “binge” as used in the context of eating, connoted a disordered pattern of eating. It was often followed by purging.
It was the sign of a problem, for good reason: the human body was not designed to consume in this way.
In the same way that the digestive system cannot process massive quantities of food in healthy ways, the nervous system cannot process endless quantities of information.
Binging ignores the rhythm of nature — the need for the system to harvest what it has taken in and engage in a period of dormancy before beginning the cycle again.
There’s a reason we use the word “digest” to refer to both food and information.
If It’s Worth Consuming It’s Worth Digesting
The best way to retain what you learn is to pause for integration.
The next time you finish a book, podcast, or television show, give yourself a period of stillness to digest it before you move on to the next one.
This may mean that you consume less, but you’ll retain more. If it’s not worth integrating, then consider whether it was worth consuming this content in the first place.