Relaxation: physical, mental & spiritual

Author: Indu Sandhu, Yoga and Ayurveda Practitioner

“The soul that moves in the world of the senses and yet keeps the senses in harmony……finds rest in quietness.”  Bhagvad Gita

Living with mind and body relaxed is our natural state, our birthright – it is only the pace of our lives that makes us forget this cardinal principle. Those who retain this art, possess the key to good health, vitality and peace of mind. Relaxation is a tonic to our entire being, liberating vast resources of energy.

The state of mind is intricately linked to the state of the body. If the muscles are relaxed then the mind is naturally relaxed; whereas if the mind is anxious, then it is felt in the body. All actions originate in the mind. When the mind receives a stimulus for action, it sends message via the nerves to contract the muscles in readiness. In this world the mind is continuously assailed by stimuli that cause one to freeze in the alerted “fight or flight” pattern of response. As a consequence, people spend much of their lives, even whilst asleep, in a state of mental and physical tension. Everyone has their own particular troubled spots, be it a clenched jaw, furrowed brow or stiff neck. This unnecessary tension not only causes a lot of discomfort but is also an enormous drain on our energy resources and a major cause of tiredness and ill-health.

Thus, relaxation is an integral part of Ayurveda and Yogic practices. There are three aspects to proper relaxation – physical, mental and spiritual.

To relax the body lie down in the Corpse Pose (Shavasana) and first tense and then  relax each part of your body, working from the feet to the head. This alternate tensing and relaxing is necessary as only through knowing how tension feels, can one achieve relaxation. Then, as in normal life the mind instructs the muscles to tense and contract, through autosuggestion the message is sent to the mind to relax. Through practice one learns to use the subconscious mind to extend this practice to the involuntary muscles of the heart, the digestive system and the other organs.

To relax and focus the mind breathe steadily and rhythmically and concentrate on one’s breathing.

Spiritual relaxation involves detaching and becoming a witness of the body and mind.

Through relaxation one experiences the sensations of melting down, of expansion, lightness and warmth. Relaxation is not so much a state as a process, a series of levels of increasing depth. Through this, certain physiological changes occur; less oxygen is consumed and less carbon dioxide eliminated; muscle tension is reduced; and there is a decrease in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. Even a few minutes of deep relaxation will reduce worry and fatigue more effectively than many hours of restless sleep.