The third point of yoga life is Proper Relaxation.
The first is proper exercise how to move the body so you can move your energy to bring yourself to balance. The second point is proper breathing being aware of your breath.
There is what is called the savasana posture or the corpse pose, the relaxation pose. If you live in a city then you are probably very tense then you have to do this posture three times a day for about ten to fifteen minutes at a time. You need to allow the force of gravity to work for you during this posture. Allow the floor to support you. At that time you are not spending any amount of energy as opposed when you are sitting or in any other posture there is always a certain amount of energy in use. Negative thoughts are located in your physical body and that is why your body has tension.
Relax the tension accumulated in your body
So in order to release this energy out you need to do what we call progressive relaxation. First tense the whole body one limb at time and then relax it. Do the same with the rest of the body. So you can see that the muscles in order to feel the relaxation they need to feel the tension and then let go into the relaxation.
Relax your mind
Your mind is still there occupied. You need to tell your mind to focus in each and every portion of the body and you name it in your mind. For example, feet relax. Go through the whole body so the power of your mind focus and gives the order to your body to relax. You also include your internal organs. Need to visualize the internal organs and need to know where the organs are in the body. After you have done all that then you feel light like floating. Basically you are feeling the astral body that is why you feel light and the energy is flowing at that time. Then you can go into a very deep state of relaxation that recharges you with new energy.
Lose the identification with body and mind
We are constantly identifying with the body and the mind so when you are relaxing like this progressively you are detaching or withdrawing your identification with the body. For example if a person cannot close the eyes for relaxation it means they are holding on to their interpretation of reality. They are afraid to let go. When you are going in and out of the relaxation you are training yourself that you are not the body. You can use it but it is not you. That is a very important philosophical point to understand that you are not the body.
How often to practice savasana
Practice savasana three or four times a day if you are very tense or at least when you do your asana practice. Also during the day practice good posture, when you have good posture your body is more relaxed and your energy flows better and you are more centered. When you sit in a wrong chair you spend a lot of energy because the body compensates for the bad posture.
How do the muscles get tense
The muscles are like soldiers in attention. They are always ready to obey. So what happens when you are driving for example so many things your body is doing. All through the day your muscles are continuously working so your body naturally becomes tense.
So when you do the savasana posture you basically give your body an order like the general to the soldiers, at ease!. I am giving you permission to relax and don’t’ do anything but relax.
Allow the body to recuperate
You have to give permission to your body to relax otherwise it won’t.
Holding a posture takes energy even lifting your little finger. If you are tired you cannot hold a posture. So be appreciative of your body and that the body is doing a lot of work and give to it the time for recuperation.
Give yourself a massage to help the energy flow
Doing asanas going through the different postures is like a massage to your body. You pressure and you relax and breathe that is a self-massage. It helps the energy flow.
Three kinds of relaxation
There are three kinds of relaxation, physical, mental, and spiritual. We are tridimensional beings. We function at the same time in many different levels. We function at the same time on the physical level, energetic level (astral level, mental level) and then the spiritual level. So in order for you to be completely relaxed you have to able to relax in all three levels.
Physical relaxation is achieved when you are practicing savasana posture and having good, balance posture during the day. As explained before
What causes mental stress
Mental stress is caused by negative thoughts like worry, anxiety. When you feel like you don’t have enough prana or energy to break through a problem or cope with a situation then you get mental stress. Also you carry the residues of emotional tension from the past, like situations that happened a long time ago but you never really released it because you never understood it and you carry it with you and then it is added on the situation of today and you don’t have enough prana to face the present situation because all the worries of the past have used up the prana and all that added up creates the stress.
The stress is also defined as the incapacity of adapting to a situation. If you have a certain expectation for it to happen a certain way and then it happens differently and you are not able to cope, adapt or understand and that usually creates stress.
Fight or flight response
The stress produces what is called as fight or flight. Life is very fast and very complex and that is why stress builds up everyday. The mind has a lot of thinking thoughts and just that fact of thinking about so many things produces stress. For example thinking about things that happened in the past that you cannot do anything about or things that might happen in the future and you cannot do anything about.
How to attain mental relaxation
The idea is that mental relaxation seems to be paradoxical in order for you to relax mentally you need to focus. That is the paradox. People think that they need to relax like going on vacation and not to think of anything and actually they get very tired because the mind is unfocused.
The mind needs to focus. The thoughts in the mind need to be channeled and the mind needs to hold to a thought in order for it to calm down. Do not hold to negative thoughts. Do consciously mental relaxation by holding to a thought that is positive then at that time your mind is focused and the energy is channeled, the thoughts in the mind are reduced and it helps you to calm down and you become more relaxed mentally.
So for example while doing the savasana posture you are focusing in every portion of the body completely aware and after you become focused you become completely relaxed.
The subtle body has many layers, the energy layer, the mind, sensual and emotional layer and the last layer: the intellect and the ego. You need to be able to relax all these portions. We know already that mental relaxation comes from concentration. The mind is linked to the senses. So to relax you need to focus the mind and calm down the senses input. If you are going to use music to relax it needs to be very calm music. Relaxation in silence is the best.
Emotional stress is when you have negative emotions like hatred, anger, jealousy, fear, anxiety, envy, and desire. To achieve emotional relaxation you focus on a neutral and uplifting object with positive feeling like love, compassion, generosity, and forgiveness. All these are positive feelings. To achieve mental emotional relaxation, keep the mind focused, introverted, on an object, ideally an internal object that is neutral… meaning an object that does not create a reaction in your mind, an uplifting inner object. For example, a light, a mantra, the breath. The breath is the most important thing to remember. Remember your breath and your life will change. We say the name of God has the power to do so. God is a supreme being that has the power to withdraw you and uplift you and save you if you can relate to it. The name of God is called a mantra. This is a sacred sound formula with a pure vibration that has the capacity to clean your mind out and take all your problems and worries away. If that is not your tradition or you haven’t been introduced to a mantra you can use your breath. Listen to the OM of your breath.
Intellectual stress means you try to think about something to take a decision and yet you cannot. At that time you become stressed. Yoga philosophy would teach you how to think, how to inquire and how to discriminate and how to detach. Learning how to detach will help you to relieve your self from the stress. Detach is don’t identify, don’t buy into it and don’t engage in something that is illusory and remain who you are.
Spiritual stress is not knowing who you are and often time we think that the reason we are stressed is because somebody is doing it to us or because we don’t have a job or enough money, etc. But in reality what is stressing us is the fundamental existence question about life. It means that we have inside of us all the time certain questions that we never receive answers. We are not aware that these questions are there. For example, who am I? Why am I here? What is this all about? What is the purpose of my life? What happens after I die? Who is God? What is my relationship with God? Why this happened to me? Why is there violence? Why is there war? Why is there cruelty? A lot of those questions are un-answered. Usually we wait until we are in crisis to try to find an answer.
We need to try to find the answers. The more that you find the answers the more relax you will be. Fundamentally it will be easier to relax spiritually, mentally and physical.
Spiritual relaxation comes from knowing who we are. Knowing our purpose. See the will of God in all things. Surrender to God, feel that you are part of the whole big picture, cooperate with it instead of resisting it. Having the right understanding about life and our relationship with the Divine and be able to rely on it and be supportive would help us to deal with existential questions.
So remember three levels of stress and three levels of relaxation and try to achieve the three levels of relaxation together. The best way is to focus on a mantra that you love with your breath. If you cannot, try to have something that you love and you focus on it like for example a piece of music or a picture of the sunrise. So when your mind is stressed out you remember that.
In yoga life the way it works is we alternate activities in order to be able to relax in between. Swami Sivananda said a vacation is a change of work. It means you need to keep your mind busy and don’t let it do whatever it likes.
The best thing to relax is to have something that is independent from somebody else something that you can invoke anytime. If you depend on your cat, for example, the cat is not all the time there.
OM OM OM