The deepest relaxation is a sense of being at home in your own skin and being comfortable with who you are!”
Yoga Journal, August 88

Corey shivasanaIn our modern day lives we are often told, we need to Relax or to take a chill pill.  We run around so busy, constantly checking our phones, our emails, our facebook accounts, we write blogs, we study, we work, we socialise, we go to the movies, we play sport, we play music, we constantly do do do..and then do do more… We have become Human Doings….. rather than Human Beings.

We say to ourselves watching TV is our relaxation time – when in actual fact our bodies & hormones are stimulated by the sound, the ads, the violence, the love affairs & the drama.

If you check in with your body as you watch TV or Film- it will be tense in various places, at times you will be holding your breath, you will cry, you will laugh, you will get angry & if you are watching Big Brother or another reality TV show – You will be shouting at the TV airing your grievances…. awaiting for it to shout back maybe?  Our senses are constantly under siege.

Relaxation, in our modern terminology is more often associated with ways of masking or distracting from tension (as seen in the examples given above) rather than it’s true meaning of ‘release.’

The Latin origins of Relaxation is ‘RELAXARE, to let go or to loosen’

The most often medically prescribed drugs in the Western world, are in some way or another, forms of relaxants, which do not address the cause of the tension, but rather create a temporary release.  Add to these, the huge volume of recreational drugs, plus alcohol, tobacco and sugar derivatives, and one begins to apprehend the levels of tension in our world today.

If we are to create true relaxation, we need to understand the cause of the tension and remove it, or give people the means to deal with it, or show them how to go beyond the stress.

Certain drugs may be helpful short term in breaking a stress cycle or tension pattern, but ultimately, we must deal with the causes.  They may give us ‘breathing space’ in which the body can ‘catch up’ and re-marshall it’s forces, enabling the cause of the tension to be addressed.

For this reason, theses drugs should not be totally discounted, but as evidence proves, most relaxants used over a period of time, have proved addictive, so the benefits must be carefully weighed up in the light of the persons temperament and overall willingness to ‘do the tough stuff’ for themselves.

There are many forms of relaxation and different ways of activating the release of tension.

ACTIVITY

  • Yoga, walking, running, swimming, workouts, sports, etc.
  • Pursuing a hobby eg. cooking, boat building, painting
  • Dancing, singing, playing an instrument
  • Sex
  • Gardening, walking with animals

REST

  • deep, undisturbed sleep
  • lying on a beach, listening to the waves
  • sunbathing
  • floating
  • fishing
  • reading
  • listening to music
  • meditation
  • Progressive Yoga Relaxation
  • iRest Yoga Nidra

We all use many of these, individually or in combination at various times in our lives and these are all valid methods of releasing tension SO LONG AS WE ARE AWARE OF THE CAUSE!  And can thus choose appropriately.

SO WHY DO PROGRESSIVE YOGA RELAXATION?

Restorative practices are a way for the body to realign, rebalance & re-find that inner equilibrium… The physical body is constantly working for balance, for homeostasis…

  • If you cut your skin – the cells begin to repair immediately.
  • When a virus or bacteria enters the body – your immune system kicks in to begin the fight to eradicate & destroy the bug.
  • When an organ is not operating to its optimal capacity – other organs kick in to assist and take up the slack.

It can be therefore summised that we can encourage our muscles (the physical body) our minds (the mental body) & our deep and sometimes, unknown emotional blocks (the emotional body) to release the tension they’re holding,  by giving them the right conditions to do so….

And amazingly all this can be done, in a very non-threatening, non-confrontational, simple way…. by practicing to be completely still!

The yogic form of relaxation is literally laying down on your back & not moving.  How easy!  (yet highly effective, I might add!)

Learning to relax the ‘yogic’ way, is however a progressive, ongoing journey… It is a practice that is repeated time and time again… Just like if you were a gymnast – Your routine needs to be done over and over again until your body, down to the cellular level, has it recorded within its memory… And after this – You keep on rehearsing… Your body and muscles are constantly changing, new cells created as older ones die, just as we have new stressers that pop up each day… Therefore there will always be new tension to release.

Ideally the Relaxation space should be a quiet room, with limited noise, from the outside world.  You lay with your head supported on a pillow, your lower back & knees supported by a cushion and your feet also resting on a supportive cushion.  You cover yourself with a blanket and allow the lights to be turned down low (or be in complete darkness/ or with an eye mask.)

The teacher (or CD) will slowly talk your physical body down into a state of release, releasing each part of the body.  Once the physical body is released it allows the mental & emotional tension to slowly bubble to the surface and release as well… This can be sometimes observed by twitches in the hands, feet or anywhere on the physical body..  Other times there can be a sense of lightness following the class.  Sometimes the body can go into a deep state of rest.

All these experiences, over time, train the physical body to release the muscular tension naturally… freeing up our minds & allowing the organism (the body) to rebalance, restore & re-energise a lot easier & more effectively, than if you did not do this ongoing practice.

It has an amazing healing effect, that is further discussed in Margrit Segesmans book ‘Wings of Power,’ the creator of this Progressive Yoga Relaxation technique.  (Margrits book can be purchased through my site)

I personally have had amazing healing through practicing relaxation daily with my hatha yoga & meditation.  In essence the 3 practices feed each other.

The Hatha Yoga allows the physical body to release the surface tension & be flexible enough to sit in Meditation, and bring about a deeper rest & release when practicing Relaxation.

The Relaxation releases the deeper tension, allowing the mind to be able to focus & concentrate more rapidly in Meditation, which flows into a deeper and more meditative Hatha Yoga practice.  The mind can focus deeper within the physical body, creating a greater awareness.

The Meditation creates stillness in the mind & stillness in the body, allowing those insights & intuitions, that bubble to the surface of the conscious mind, to be grasped & processed.  The sitting meditation allows the active meditation (hatha yoga) to be more focussed inwardly, and the Relaxation to be more conscious, awake & aware (without the body slipping into a sleep state.)

Each practice feeds & informs the other… A wholistic practice should always incorporate many branches… These can be seen in Patanjalis 8 Limbs of Yoga (but more about that later)

Back to Relaxation… The only time most of us rest the body is at sleep time – and then for a huge percentage of the population, the body is not getting enough sleep, or getting a satisfactory deep sleep, allowing the body & mind to move through all the stages of the sleep cycle.  Many suffer with insomnia & are overstimulated with alcohol, coffee & other stimulants, they watch the TV, violent movies, play video games or stare at a computer screen until the early hours of each morning and each night are robbed of the organisms natural ability to regenerate itself fully, during the natural sleep cycles.

To be completed…

* some information on this page was sourced from Teacher Training notes & Progressive Yoga Relaxation Post-Grad notes.