The next phase of our five point yoga series is relaxation. Relaxation is absolutely vital to the human body. How many of us have absolutely ran our bodies down? I know during college, my bodies was continuously in a state of disrepair because I was always pushing it beyond its limits. Sleeping and eating always came secondary to the many tasks I needed to fulfill... I think it goes without saying that I was always exhausted and became ill very easily.
Yoga breaks relaxation down to three levels: physical, mental, and spiritual. All three levels must be satisfied in order to fully recharge our bodies. On the flip side of relaxation, there are also three types of stress, and you probably have guessed them: physical, mental, and spiritual. In order to relax properly, we must do our best to rid our bodies of stress.
So what causes these stressors that make relaxation difficult? Physical stress comes from too little physical movement and too much repetitive movement (How many work at a desk for 7+ hours a day doing the same task over and over?) Poor posture can also contribute stress to the body. Another cause of physical stress is eating a poor diet. I know far too many people who cling to the idea of convenient instead of exploring more healthy eating options that are just as easy to prepare as a box dinner. We can eliminate physical stress on the body by correcting our posture and becoming more physically fit (Asana practice is the ideal "workout" for both.) Also, incorporating fresh foods into our diet instead of relying on preservative infested meals is a quick way to feel a difference in your body.
Mental stress is a result of hectic lifestyles. Having too much on your plate is enough to make the mind go crazy. But when you add distractions, low prana, and negative emotions to the mix, relaxing the mind is practically impossible. One thing that you can do for you mental state is focus on proper breathing. As stated in my last post, proper breathing brings more oxygen into the body, thus creating more energy or prana. But the most important step to mental relaxation is focusing on positive thoughts! Negative thinking drains the body of precious prana, and let's face it, who wants to be around a Negative Nancy? Instead of thinking, "Oh there's no way I'll be getting that job," think, "I have just as good of chance as anyone else." I know, I know, it's hard to break a habit such as the way we think, but being conscious of those thoughts is the first step.
Lastly, spiritual stress comes from those philosophical questions in life. "Where did I come from?" and, "What is my purpose?" are just a couple examples of these daunting mysteries. Spiritual relaxation is much harder to obtain because it means detaching one's self from the physical body and mind. Instead of seeing yourself as your body and as your mind, you would only see these things as a vehicles that carry you through life. You would see the soul (in yogic terms, atman) as the actual self. Now, this is a highly advanced state of relaxation. It is very difficult to detach oneself from the believe that they are their appearance, profession, and state of mind. However, attaining this state is the only way to observe complete relaxation.
I bet many of you are thinking, "Wow, it takes A LOT of work to become relaxed." No one is expected to pick up these habits in just one day. It takes years of practice to fully incorporate these ideas into your lifestyle. It is my hope that this post will inspire you to step back and make an assessment of your life. Maybe there are one or two habits you could possibly tweak in order to incorporate more relaxation into your life. Om Namah Sivaya!
**Information learned from The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta. For more information on proper relaxation, please visit this link.