For centuries, yoga has tried to counter the active nature of the mind as an essential element of welfare, health and spiritual evolution. Meditation comes from this need to stop identifying with the ego, which is our most basic nature. The ego is necessary to survive and because it relates to our physical, particular existence, but also from there comes suffering. The ego sometimes explained as the mind and senses and while we identify with our mind and body, it is with our being limited to “I”, there will be anxiety, fear, anger and sadness.
Yoga Sutras, central text of the science of yoga, is something like a psychology document. It is an attempt to analyze where that suffering comes and tells us that it comes from the rejections, desires and attachments.
We are at the mercy of the phenomenal world and what our mind interprets it, so we are sad or happy depending on the circumstances. However, for yoga, the reality is different from what we perceive. In this higher reality, we are not separate. We are part of a greater whole but our ego is not able to see it clearly. Therefore, we are already complete and we have the qualities of all i.e. joy, peace, wisdom. Do not depend on outside because we are more than our bodies and our minds as we are our higher self.
The tradition of yoga explains how in today’s world, we are so overloaded and we have lower efficiency. Swami Vishnudevananda uses the metaphor of a car in this regard; a car needs to function properly cooled, not exhausted and to continue operating at maximum capacity. The problem is that we do not give our body and mind the needed rest, therefore, we have no optimum performance. We do not know the rest. We believe it is enough to throw ourselves on a couch to watch a movie and not to think or go dancing. That’s all fine, and distracts us from our mind, but not a deep rest. Even while we sleep we may not relax well, because the mind is still active and our body is still tense. We live hyper-stimulated.
Worse, we lose the vital energy we have for the day in a few seconds of anger or stress. We live tenser mode because the body is prepared to act really in action. We repress very intensely to our inner states that little bit we do makes greater damage. Total relaxation, which is different from the dream, is the natural body’s way of recharging. We have to get in a state of low mental activity where little power is being consumed. By this excess mental activity, exacerbated by the overactive nature of the contemporary world and these responses, we are constantly anxious and exhausted.
You can continue reading about importance of relaxation in yoga here.
The Importance of Relaxation in Yoga – Part 2
In response to this, yoga gives us a complete system of health and wellness. Among its practices is relaxation. Yoga relaxation identifies at three levels i.e. physical, mental and spiritual. Physical relaxation is achieved through the practice of Savasana, which in some Yoga traditions is called Nidra, the yoga of conscious sleep. Relaxation is a practice in itself, which ideally would be part of our daily life, because it is very important to recharge and relax deeply.
It could be defined as a self-induced relaxation. As yoga takes into account the relationship between the body and the mind, the mind uses to send messages relaxing each part of the body, including internal organs and the mind itself. It makes us more present mentally and consciously helps us relax our every centimeter of our body. The mind is alert but calm and the body enters a state close to sleep.
It is also an essential part of yoga asanas, which must always end with a long relaxation of at least 15 minutes to assimilate the practice and recharge the body. It starts in concentration on breathing and meditations and then directs attention to relax each part of the body, until the mind is present but paused. In some traditions, tension is introduced into each body part before beginning to relaxation and the body in response relaxes even more.
The most immediate mental relaxation technique is breathing. Much has been written about the close relationship between the mind and breathing. When breathing is agitated, the mind will also be hectic. So the central method of yoga is to calm the mind back to a slow, rhythmic and deep breathing.
Mental relaxation is also related to the technique of direct our attention to a fixed point, as we do with meditation. This makes our mind avoid confusing and disturbing thoughts. By collecting our senses and concentrate our attention, the first two steps of Raja Yoga meditation, we are only in the present moment and we can enter a state of calmness. We can create distance between us and our minds. Meditation is the deepest state in which we are united to a totality. This is the ultimate relaxation, the spiritual. It is when we stop identifying ourselves with our mind and body, when we transcend the ego and are in pure state of consciousness, back to integration.
You will realize the importance of relaxation in yoga when you start your own practice under the supervision of yoga instructor training Rishikesh.