Constructive rest is a practice which is part of the Alexander Technique, a discipline which is designed to help people unlearn bad physical and mental habits. You do not have to subscribe to the Alexander Technique to benefit from constructive rest, however, and you can often find variations of it being advocated by an assortment of people in a variety of disciplines, from yoga to acting. Fans of constructive rest say that daily sessions create long-term benefits.
Much of the Alexander Technique is focused on encouraging people to relax, to rid their bodies of tension so that they can strengthen core muscles and learn new ways of thinking and moving which benefit their bodies. The goal of the Technique is to find a state of healthy balance, rather than being too tense or too relaxed. Constructive rest is often a part of sessions with instructors, and it can also be practiced independently.
During constructive rest, people lie on their backs with their heads supported and their knees drawn up, creating a very relaxed position. As they lie down, they focus on areas of tension in their bodies, encouraging their bodies to release the tension. While lying in the constructive rest pose, the mind is emptied, and the practitioner focuses on breathing. The post may be held for 20-30 minutes, allowing the body to relax and rejuvenate.
Supposedly, regular constructive rest will help people to feel more calm and focused. It will also relax the body and mind, creating a state in which one experiences much less stress. It can also be used to relax and defuse stress after tense situations, whether they are long car rides which force the body to hold awkward poses or intense board meetings.
To practice constructive rest, you will need a padded flat surface; carpeting works very well. You can use a yoga block or a stack of books to support your head, ideally creating a pose where your face is parallel with the ceiling, not dragging back against your spine or crunched into your chest. Your feet should be as close to your rear end as is comfortable, and your hands can be lightly folded across your rib cage, or left to stretch out on the floor, depending on how you feel most relaxed. You may find that it helps to find a quiet, calm space to practice constructive rest, so that you are not distracted.