Almost universally among hatha yoga practices and styles is the time set aside at the end of practice for rest. Ashtanga yoga asana practice is no different. After time for asana, there is time for rest. During rest there is nothing to "do", no goals, just rest. It's time to let the body assimilate all that I have just asked of it.
(...a side note: Some yoga asana styles and some ashtangis refer to this time as savasana or corpse pose. Pattabhi Jois has reportedly said that savasana is actually a pose at the end of 6th series where, rumor has it, you can learn to stop your own heartbeat!...yikes! For that reason, I'll just refer to that resting time at the end of practice as rest)...now back to your regularly scheduled post...
Ashtanga often gets a reputation for attracting "type A" people. Certainly, a regular daily practice that may often last 1 1/2 to 2 hours takes a certain amount of dedication. It is also true that Ashtanga offers physical challenges to meet any level of practitioner. However, one of the biggest challenges that I see myself and students struggle with is the willingness to rest. Many practitioners that I meet find it very difficult to just rest without needing to "do" anything at that moment.
I catch myself working through that same mental tug-of-war on especially busy days. I know how important it is to rest after practice. Giving the body time to assimilate the physical practice is a vital part of receiving the benefits of this practice. All the same, it is easy to feel like the "work" is done when the last pose is finished. It is easy to hop right back up after a breath or two in "rest" and be pulled back into a busy day. Each practice that I cut back on rest pulls me into a little less balance.
The yoga sutras say that yoga asana is a balance between effort and ease. I think this extends to the balance between physical practice and rest after practice. My challenge to myself this year both on the mat and off is to keep working to maintain that balance. When I start leaning a little too hard in the direction of "effort", I will be looking for ways to pull back, always looking for balance...and starting each day with enough rest after asana practice