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The Science of Relaxation
by Swami Sitaramananda
17
AUGUST, 2018
Sivananda yoga teaches us the art and science of relaxation so we can be calm and poised in all of life’s ups and downs.
The struggle for existence is all around us. There is competition and stress in every walk of life. This problem has become very difficult. There is unemployment everywhere. Brilliant young people with good education can hardly get a job these days.

A great deal of mental and physical strain is imposed on modern people by daily stress and and unhealthy life style.

Modern Stress can be overwhelming.

Artificial habits

People have lost their connection to nature.   We have tension in our muscles and nerves and have forgotten how to relax.  If you practice relaxation, no energy will be wasted. During relaxation the muscles and nerves are at rest.

The prana or energy is stored up and conserved. The vast majority of persons who have no comprehensive understanding of this beautiful science of relaxation simply waste their energy by creating unnecessary movements of muscles and by putting the muscles and nerves under great strain.

People have lost their connection to nature.   We have tension in our muscles and nerves and have forgotten how to relax.

Signs of Stress

There are many symptoms of stress (put link from powerpoint). Insomnia, eating disorders, digestive problems, nervous tension in the body, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular problems and allergies are all such symptoms which can lead to other diseases.

Three types of stress

There are three types of stress:  physical, mental and spiritual.

Physical stress comes with wrong posture, wrong dietary habits, short breaths, and inappropriate use or overexertion of the body.

Mental stress is the main cause of physical stress.  This includes negative emotional stress due to the pressure of daily life, difficulty to adapt to changes, and undigested emotional experiences or unfulfilled desires.

Stress can come on at any time.

Stresses of Modern Life

In our modern technological urban societies, life is very fast and demanding.  People are expected to perform, to multitask, to be focused and productive.  They spend more prana than they recharge.

Furthermore, people are caught up in consumer’s society and multi media society where there is pressure to consume and shop, to be updated of things that are in fact irrelevant to our lives. The demands of modern society drain us from our resources and prana and left us empty and weak.

Additionally, we are losing true family and friends support to help us to deal with stress. The society becomes complex, relationships become also unfulfilling and we live in a permanent pranic debt leading to chronic stress.

Stress leads to Negative Emotions

This kind of life produces negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, and discontentment.  These negative emotions can be short term or long term.  Long term negative emotions can go back to before birth and display as certain personality traits.

Life events will aggravate these tendencies, or may help the person to switch to more positive habits.  Thus stressful situations can be an opportunity for growth.  Indeed, it is stressful to have to face our past tendencies and unresolved stories.

To say the least, this kind of intense mental and emotional churning can consume lots of our energy, or prana.

Long term negative emotions can go back to before birth and display as certain personality traits.

Spiritual Stress

Spiritual stress is often overlooked.  It is not the loss of a job, changes in relationships, our environment or an economic crisis that creates stress.  It is the underlying existential questions that are hidden within, without any answers, that create permanent underlying anxiety in all of us.

Questions are often asked such as, ‘who am I?’, ‘why did this happen to me?’, ‘what is life?’, ‘what is death?’, ‘what is my priority?’, ‘who can I trust?’, ‘who is God?’, ‘what is my relationship with others?’.

Our elders, parents, family members, friends or teachers often are not able to help or guide us to find answers.  We experience fundamental loneliness and lack of sustainable direction and wisdom.

Above – Learn to relax by spending time in nature and practicing yoga.

Three kinds of relaxation

Relaxation induces health. There are three kinds of relaxation: physical, emotional, and spiritual.  The art of relaxation includes these 3 levels of relaxation leading to the 3 levels of health.

Technically, physical relaxation is termed savasana in yoga, the ‘corpse pose’.  Normally, even when trying to rest, we expend physical and mental energy through tension.  In general, physical relaxation is maintaining good posture in all activities to avoid muscle tension. Conscious physical relaxation releases blockages and facilitates the blood flow bringing oxygen to all parts of the body and to all organs in particular the brain.

Science of Relaxation

In particular, savasana is the science of relaxation and is a progressive, conscious relaxation of body and mind that allows us to finally detach from involvement with the body and return to our peaceful self.  Consciously tensing and releasing our muscles in savasana from the toes, reaching up to the eyes, ears and head, helps to bring our body and mind to their natural efficiency. During complete relaxation, there is little or no energy , or prana, being consumed.

Consciously tensing and releasing our muscles in savasana from the toes, reaching up to the eyes, ears and head, helps to bring our body and mind to their natural efficiency.

Mental Relaxation

Emotional, or mental relaxation is achieved by breathing slowly and rhythmically, specially by exhaling slowly and deeply. Also, emotional relaxation is achieved through not holding grudges, frustrations or hatred towards anybody or anything. On the contrary, the relaxed yogi sends love to everyone, accepts everyone, and forgives everyone. The heart is open in trust and faith.

The yogi sees the divine in all happenings, so, it is easier for him or her to surrender and to adapt to what’s happening. The Yogi lives in the here and now, free from expectations and preconceived ideas. The mind of a yogi is free from likes and dislikes, or attractions, attachments and aversions.  He or she is selfless and connected to the core contentment and peace within the Self.

Meditation as a Tool

Meditation is an important tool to achieve this detached and relaxed state of mind. However, it should be noted that a relaxed state of mind doesn’t mean a random state of mind and being, a free for all.  In fact, this is a distracted state of mind. On the contrary, the mind of a relaxed Yogi is grounded but inward and upward focused and calm.

Ordinarily, we want to relax our mind by escaping our reality through constant changing of activities and entertainments. As a result, the mind becomes more desirous, dissatisfied and scattered. We constantly change our focus, and become restless looking for happiness in imperfect outer objects and things. This will lead to stress and disappointments, not to relaxation and peace. 

Read more about learning to focus in this blog post by Swami Sitaramananda.

Practicing Meditation and Positive Emotions we can heal ourself.

Emotional Health through Pure Love

Furthermore, mental and emotional relaxation is not being indifferent or being aloof. It is learning what pure love or devotion is. Through the purification of our heart and emotions, we become mature and “emotionally intelligent”. This is an endeavor of a life time, so one needs to be patient.

How does it work? We need to learn first to regulate our emotions, avoid extremes, extreme highs or extreme lows.  Secondly, we need to learn to calm our desirous heart and to be content and grateful instead for all gifts received.  This journey of mental and emotional discipline will allow us to experience the bliss within. In turn, the bliss experienced within will free us from compulsions and desires.

Conclusion

In summary, loose life and indulgent life is not relaxation, but a conscious, content and simple life is true relaxation and happiness.

The science of relaxation leads to spiritual relaxation, a state of freedom and joyfulness when there is no expectation or desire of anything. Instead of anxiety, we experience detachment, contentment  and fulfillment .

Upcoming Stress Relief and Relaxation courses at the Sivananda Yoga Farm that teaches these techniques.

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