Updated: Jul 27
Relaxation is a state the body is meant to be in naturally. Relaxation is both a mental and a physical phenomenon, in fact both these aspects have the ability to influence each other. The health of the physical body depends upon the efficiency at which the exchange of substances - food, water, prana - takes place between the open system of the body and its external environment. A relaxed state is required for keeping the tubular channels through which these substances move within the body optimally open and unclogged.
Any kind of stress, or tension in the mind tightens the grip on the muscles surrounding the cavities of the organ systems via the nerve chains which link the mind at one end to these muscles on the other. The tensed muscles prevent the free flow of the vital substances through the body channels resulting in disease. Relaxation in yoga provides complete mental and physical relaxation aided by the nervous system connecting the two of them.
What is meant by relaxation is investing ourselves with a sense of well-being at least for the time-being. Since stress can also be fatal one can, must understand and learn to manage tension with proper relaxation training and practice.
Understanding Tension for Relaxation in Yoga
Relaxation techniques form a crucial part of the yoga for the executives in the ever tensing up environments of modern corporate cultures. Everything in the twenty first century seems to be geared up for tension; we work under tension, we love under tension, we eat under tension, and we also rest under tension. The so called modern man has somewhere lost the ability to relax the natural way. He is more habituated to using tranquilizers, sleeping pills, cigarette, alcohol or narcotics in an attempt to conquer tension.
Tranquilizers do not hit at the root of the cause of tension but merely hides the cause behind a drug -induced protective screen erected by lowering the normal sensitivity of the nervous system. Tranquilizers are bad as they work by dulling our otherwise natural responses for handling our life problems like anger, fear and anxiety. They merely reduce our response to stimuli by silencing the noise of life along with its spark and brilliance.
Human beings thrive, develop and survive in relation to their surroundings and their interactions with the outside wold as social beings. Each individual influences its surrounding with its acts and in turn bears the impact of the acts, changes in its external environment. as per normal behavioral norms an organism receives a stimulus - perceives it as per own mental construct - develops a tendency to act in response - and the muscles carry the act to fruition.
Stimulus - tendency to act - command to muscles - action
If a stimulus is received, perceived by an individual the tendency to act arises, but in case due to some reason the individual cannot act the tendency stays within the individual as tension. Every individual do not perceive the same stimulus in the same manner. nature of perception is colored by the past experiences of the individual. One individual with a pleasant past experience with the same stimulus will perceive is very differently from the other individual who has pain associated with its memory.
One of the benefits of Hatha Yoga relaxation techniques is that they have the potential to change, alter the perception of the stimulus associated with pain to a more pleasant one in order to induce relaxation in the mind. Any nervous activity that is started in the central nervous system; brain, and remains unexpressed causes irreversible physio chemical changes within its cells. The brain cells do not regain their original state, thus tension can remain stuck within the muscles or the nervous system.
All tension is a form of outward reaction to inner attitudes, manifested through the central nervous system. Tension can be physical , neuromuscular, or mental. Mental tension originates in the mind and results in nervous tension or neurosis. Purely physical tension is produced when the muscles remain contracted for long whether at work or at play.
If this is allowed to persist for long it transforms into neuromuscular tension, the tension of the muscles as well as the nerves: here the tensed up muscles prevent the nerves from relaxing and vice versa. This tension as help up within both the mind and the body further generates a never ending cycle of anxiety and worry. Clinical trials for studying relaxation in yoga have shown that physical tension has the ability to transform into mental tension.
A good example of this would be tightening up of the body with the tension visually trapped within the jaws as someone hears some bad news over the phone. Anger is prominently visible physically through glaring eyes and a reddened face. Likewise tension may originate physically and transform to mental tension.
Greek terms psyche - soul - and soma - body - give rise to the English medical term psychosomatic disease, soul body disease; disease started by the soul but manifests in the body. These are actually the physical conditions induced by the emotions of fear and anxiety. Ulcers, nervous and heart conditions, migraine, headaches, asthma, disorders of the digestive system, certain skin issues, and many allergic reactions are all common psychosomatic diseases.
How does Passive Relaxation in Yoga works?
Tension causes congestion, stoppage of the flow of the channels sustaining life, relaxation is the cure for it. Relaxation has been found to improve any bodily condition or function in general. Relaxation in yoga is basically of two types: one is when one goes limp, consciously attempting to cease all physical and mental functions known as passive relaxation; second one is about the ability to maintain same state of relaxation, same ease of mind, nerves and muscles while carrying out daily activities, this type of relaxation is known as dynamic relaxation in yoga.
One must learn both the passive - static - as well as the dynamic modes of relaxation in order to come out of the tight grip of tension gifted to all by the attributes associated with modern civilization. Relaxation techniques in yoga are to be practiced as a step by step systematic process. One who is tense cannot just drop down on the floor and just tell oneself to relax, it is a state of mind one gradually and slowly slips into.
The correct procedure to induce relaxation as described in yoga is that first the tense or the nervous person must do something active with the larger muscles of the body - like hamstrings - as the muscle activity soothes the nerve ending resting on them as part of the nervous system, only then must the person attempt relaxation yoga poses . Western authorities on relaxation recommend swings and rhythmic exercises which when followed by static relaxation postures can lead to real, deep relaxation state.
When Shri Yogendra ji says," the more perfect the effort, the more perfect is the relaxation", he is pointing towards the same sequence of steps required for completely relaxing the body. Western thought on relaxation does not offer a integrated approach to the problem of relaxing the mental activities, and the physical aspects as two entities which need to be subdued for achieving complete state of relaxation.
It is only yoga that covers the whole man, mental as well as physical. The yogic method of conditioning helps shut off the mental activity before one attempts passive relaxation in yoga. When the practitioner approaches the relaxing yoga poses with a pre conditioned mind it helps perform the yoga for relaxation poses with complete body and mind coordination as the larger group of muscles are being properly worked out.
This, when followed by pranayama or regulation of breathing makes the practitioner more harmonized and thus relaxed. The synchronized breathing rhythm as brought about by the practice of simple basic breathing yoga exercises is what induces relaxation and inwardness within the practitioner. These practices whne followed by psychosomatic yoga relaxation techniques like Nishpanda bhava, or Savasana completely relaxes the mental and physical aspects of the practitioner.
Only yoga recommends approaching relaxation with a particular attitude of mind while keeping the attention on breathing for achieving good passive relaxation.
How to attain Dynamic Relaxation in Yoga?
Dynamic relaxation means a relaxed state of mind one carry's with oneself as one goes about the rigmaroles of daily living. The practitioner develop an ability to witness one's life as a third person looking from outside. One develops a understanding that a relaxed state of mind is possible in the midst of all the surrounding troubles and annoyances of the external environment. This takes special training of the mind the yoga way.
For dynamic relaxation yoga wants the right conduct to govern us. Yama and Niyama - the first two steps of the classical yoga of Patanjali - should become part and parcel of us. When the mind is kept under strict discipline with pure conduct and right attitude its restlessness is lost, and the tensions and worries caused by a restless mind decrease. The man becomes more integrated as the self understanding is enhanced leading to a flexible and relaxed mind
One need to understand that relaxation shows us the way to peace and well-being no matter how deprecated and desperate we have become. Relaxation in yoga does't ask for any pre-conditions or prerequisites, it doesn't ask us to forget our goals and ambitions we have set for ourselves due to which we may be feeling restless. Rather yoga relaxation works on generating hope and not accepting our failures as irreversible. Relaxation can boost our efforts of hoping against hope to stand up and prepare to fight again after the battle has been all lost.
Relaxation in yoga teaches us to repair and rehabilitate ourselves. One can begin by practicing to to relax - let go - off the muscles first one by one and then in groups. next one can unwind the nerves through regulation of the breath. This will help release the mind from its chronic preoccupations and thus help it relax. Practicing positive thinking techniques in order to change our thoughts to being more positive help keep the mind relaxed in day to day living. Positive thoughts clear the negative smoke screen of the mind and make it less desperate and more hopeful.
Being positive work by making us more accepting of what we are. This means that we are no more hostile toward our own selves and their is no internal war being waged inside our psyches. The moment we learn to accept ourselves any rancor within our minds that was trouble us loses its potency. Past ceases to trouble us anymore. So, yoga helps us readjust our notions and values from within which helps change out outlook on ourselves and the external world. The mind gets trained to focus on all that was and is good in our life and the enhancement of the feeling of self worth helps us have a good night sleep and a healthy appetite.
Dynamic relaxation is a state that is achieved by cultivating positive thoughts with malice towards none and faith in one's abilities. Complete relaxation is the result of establishing a harmonious balance between the mind, body and spirit which is only possible with the teaching of yoga.
Some Basic techniques of Relaxation in Yoga
Yoga breathing exercise for Inducing Relaxation
Yoga advocates practicing deep breathing ones or twice a day for filling the day with renewed vitality and vigor. The practice of deep breathing must begin with first learning to equalize the duration of inhalation and the exhalation comprising a single breath. Eventually the duration must be prolonged to 4 seconds each for inhalation and exhalation with m internal retention of breath ( kumbhaka) for a duration of 8 seconds making it a breathing ratio of 4:8:4.
The yoga classes we take at our yoga retreat at Shahzadpur yoga center have this technique integrated into the curriculum for all our students of learning relaxation in yoga.
Self Hypnosis for Relaxation
This technique can be only performed n the presence of a teacher who would be giving the hypnotic suggestion to the student to for self hypnosis. The student need to practice concentration of mind aided by a candle flame in the beginning as a preparation to this technique. Then a brief formula is suggested by the teacher to the student to self induce the state of hypnosis.
Jacobson's technique for Relaxation
The person begins by contracting a given muscle or a group of muscles until he feels the related tension. Then the person is instructed to slowly release and relax the same group of muscles. It has been successfully demonstrated that the residual hyper tension in any or all the regions of the body can be reduced by localized ( differentiated) or generalized ( progressive) conscious relaxation.
Relaxation meditation if practiced with proper isolation and discipline help dissipate the tension trapped inside the body parts and the mind. One can also simply sit in Sukhasana - recommended pose - or any other yoga posture and begin by focusing the attention on the toe and then slowly carrying the consciousness upwards till one reaches the head, again begin moving the consciousness from the head back to the toes by following the same points in the body.
A lot of people find relaxation in Music too.
Relaxation is about reversing the tense state of the body and mind to its natural state it is meant to be in. Relaxation is of two type; static or passive relaxation and dynamic relaxation. Relaxation cannot be forced upon someone with a few commands or directions given to the mind. Rather forcing an agitated mind to relax makes it further restless than otherwise.
Relaxation in yoga is a systematic process in which follows a set pattern of activities to be done in order to achieve it. First one must collapse physically, as in corpse pose, and let go off all the tension in the muscles of the body taking one's attention to one at a time and releasing it to the force of gravity. Then one must drain the mind of any residual stress by focusing it on a single thought or part of the body.
Lying still is not necessarily the same as lying relaxed. A part or whole of the individual may be still but still be rigid; relaxation is only achieved when the body is still as well as limp.