Deep Relaxation is the second of the three aids of meditation we have discussed till now. In the present era of extremely busy life, the art of deep relaxation can be of immense help to people. Most of us have forgotten the art of relaxation
Consider this :
Nomadic peoples all over Asia, journeying night and day, reach an oasis or camping place and at once throw themselves on the ground and lie there limp, apparently lifeless from head to foot. One hour of this rest refreshes them with as much new vitality and energy as a night’s sleep for the average person. These wanderers are able to undertake surprisingly long journeys with very little rest.
These people have not yet forgotten the art of relaxation, the ability to completely rest at will. This art has been practiced by yogis since ancient times. They began their experimentation on this state by watching animals in deep relaxation during sleep, and especially during hibernation.
Do you want to learn this art of deep relaxation ?
Let me tell you an ancient yogic method of deep relaxation (also known as Yog Nidra means the yogic sleep ) It is strongly recommended for anybody who wants to learn meditation and is leading a very busy and demanding life to learn the art of deep relaxation. Since we all get exhausted (both physically and mentally) by the end of the day, it is very necessary for us to learn this art of deep relaxation. so that we can meditate with full vigor and enthusiasm.
Since we all get very tired and enervated in our daily routine, I am telling you a deep relaxation technique which is also a very powerful meditation. This technique serve the dual purpose of relaxation and meditation simultaneously. This is not only a very simple technique but also a very effective way to completely rest our body and mind.
Most of us spend our day in rush hour. The minute we wake up till the minute we go to bed, our body is subjected to immense physical and mental pressure. In such condition it is natural when we go to bed, we are completely exhausted and enervated.
When people say they feel like crying with sheer fatigue, they mean just that. Physically, they have reached a point where the only release for their weariness is an emotional purge. Afterwards, of course, they will end up completely exhausted, for nothing eats up one’s energy like letting the emotions have full play.
We keep loosing energy every moment
Most of us are spendthrift of our energy resources. We dissipate them twenty-four hours a day. Just watch yourself and the people around you. Can you sit still, quiet and at ease, for ten or even five minutes? Or do you fidget, shift about, cross and re-cross your legs, drum with your fingers on the arm of your chair, rub your neck, bite your lips? In a room full of people, is there even one who is without nervous habits? If so, he is a happy exception. Nor mind you, does this apply to “busy-busy” persons alone.
It is perfectly possible to spend a quiet day with nothing in the least urgent to do and still eat one’s self up with tension. In fact boredom itself is an enemy in this respect. Think how many people with easy, routine jobs complain of being “dead tired” by the end of the day. And who of us hasn’t said, at one time or another,” I haven’t done a thing all day, but I’m beat.”?
What is NOT relaxation ?
Before we go on to a discussion of the actual techniques of Deep Relaxation, let us consider for a moment what relaxation is not. In the first place, it is not play. Nor is it a change of pace or of occupation. Play and change are fine, of course. They do help, they are a step in the right direction. But they are not the real thing.
Thus the tired businessman out for a day of golf, the home gardener, the knitter, the Sunday painter are all people who indulge in pleasant hobbies in order to get away from other routines, but they are merely substituting one form of activities for another. The same holds true for the avid reader, the Hi-Fi enthusiast, the TV fan.
Each finds a degree of respite in doing what he enjoys, but each remains occupied. The mind keeps ticking away, the muscles remain at work. Even listening to music with the eyes closed requires a certain expenditure of energy! Very definitely, recreation cannot be considered true, complete relaxation.
Understand what is true relaxation
The great art of relaxation is within the reach of all. It is better to understand it in detail. We use two kind of energy in our daily life – physical and mental. Overuse of physical energy results in exhaustion of physical body whereas use of mental energy results in an exhausted mind which specifically means exhaustion of our nervous system. In order to restore our vigor and replenish your energy , we need a relaxation exercise that helps us to relax us completely i.e. both mentally as well as physically.
A relaxation technique that that relaxes each and every muscle and every nerve of our body is Shava Asana (‘Shuv ‘Aa’Sun , Shuv sounds like ‘love’)
The Sanskrit meaning of Shavasan is Corpse Pose. It is not related to Death, only to hibernation, which has to do with the prolongation of life. It is an immense powerful technique for relaxing body and mind. This deep relaxation technique has far deeper effect than those of sleep. Moreover a very important meditation technique ‘Death Meditation‘ is also based on it.
So let us start learning Deep Relaxation by familiarizing ourselves with the important instructions for Deep Relaxation
Instructions for Deep Relaxation
Before starting deep relaxation bear in mind that:
(1) Your aim is to quiet your nerves and rest your body by ridding yourself of all conscious tensions and contraction.
Deep relaxation is a must-do for all those who have the problems of :
(i) lack of vitality, fatigue, or poor concentration.
(ii) wearing oneself out by remaining constantly on the go with no moments of respite and never being able to gather enough energy for getting started on whatever they intend to do.
(2)To learn to relax completely takes time, and can not be mastered in one easy lesson.
But you will certainly learn how if you are willing to try. Moreover, from the very beginning, even while you are still unable to let go completely, you will begin to feel the benefits of what you are doing. And this, in turn, will make for more success.
Soon your nervous system will become like a complicated network of highly charged electric wires with the current turned off: no hum, no sparks, no vibrations, while the batteries that are mainspring of energy recharge themselves.
Do you know that there are over four hundred muscles on each side of human body-no fewer than twenty in the forearm alone. Most of time we are not even conscious of using half of them. Moreover, we use them in groups and many of the small ones are beyond the range of our conscious feeling. Certainly we do not tense them consciously nor would we know how to let go of them
(3) Making a routine is very helpful in deep relaxation.
You should try, whenever possible, to do your relaxing exercises at approximately the same time each day. An early morning relaxation helps insure a good, serene day while a late evening period is a good preamble to a restful night’s sleep. On the other hand, you might be one of those majority of people who need to replenish their energies at the end of their busy & tiring working day. In deciding what is best for you, your guide should always be your own ease and comfort. Any sense of “must”, of pressure, should be avoided.
(4) Place of relaxation and cloths to wear during relaxation.
Unless you become so adept at relaxing that you can relax anywhere by shutting out the world around you at any time and any place, your period of relaxation should be taken away from other people, in a room where you are alone, with the door closed.
You will need a quiet atmosphere so as not to be distracted by anybody. Since most of us are city dwellers it is difficult to avoid a certain amount of traffic noise, but do try to control what sounds you can, since conversation, the radio, the ticking of a clock can be most distracting. Keep disturbance at a minimum.
Your clothes should be comfortable, too. In fact, the less you have on the better : Make certain you are not annoyed by a tight belt, a stiff collar, a girdle, a brassiere. Anything that might make you unduly conscious of being physically confined should be avoided. On the other hand you must not feel cold. Be sure there are no drafts in the room since it is impossible to relax properly while chilly.
Now we’ll start the real technique of deep relaxation:
The technique of Deep Relaxation
The best position for Deep Relaxation is Shavasana – the Corpse Pose. And the best place is the floor. Lie flat on your back, using a mat or folded blanket to protect yourself from the cold boards. If for some reason it is impossible for you to use the floor, then choose a hard bed, preferably one with a wooden board.
A soft bed will never be completely satisfactory, for as it sags under your weight, certain muscles will invariably tense up. Moreover, a soft bed might lull you to sleep, and sleep is not what you are after at the moment.
You will probably not feel entirely comfortable when you first try lying like this: The floor will feel too hard, you will find yourself tempted to shift positions. But this you must not do, for in order to relax muscle by muscle it is important to lie quite still.
Just remember that every body movement, every shift, however slight, means a tensing of one or another group of muscles To avoid this, make sure that you are lying comfortably, with your weight fairly evenly distributed.
Once settled take a few deep breaths from the diaphragm, then allow yourself to breathe normally again. The next step is to get acquainted with the muscles of your feet. Imagine that you have just swallowed a tracer substance, and that your muscles are channels through which you are watching it flow.
Now send an order along one of these channels. Breath deeply and stretch a leg. Inhale deeply and stretch the leg hard, making all the muscles along the way contract- and feel what is happening . you will feel muscles, quite far away from the area with which you are experimenting, contract in sympathy.
If you clench your fist, for example, you will feel contractions all the way up to your arm and into your shoulder. If you flex your toes, ripples of movement will tense the muscles of your thigh.
Now hold the breath as well as the stretch for a moment, while you trace your sensations in details. Memorize them: next time you give your arm an order you will be able to check whether or not it is being followed. And now let go. Release the breath and remove the stretch. As you exhale, let go all muscles of stretched leg loose.
Repeat this simultaneous process (of deep breathing and stretching the muscles) limb by limb, until you have a nodding acquaintance with the various groups of muscles through your body.
Now start the stretching all over again, but this time in slow motion (i.e. make the process of inhalation and stretching slow) Build the stretch up, slowly, like a cat arching its back. In the meantime let that imaginary tracer substances show you, as clearly as possible, every muscle you have put into play. Observe and note your sensation for future reference. Hold the pose until you are thoroughly aware of what is happening. Then once more in slow motion, let go.
It is this letting-go process that is the actual mechanism of true relaxation. Think of yourself as a puppet without any strings to hold it up any longer. Could anything be more limp? That is the stage you are trying to reach, a relaxation so complete that you lose all feeling of alertness.
As I have already said you are not likely to achieve such state on your first attempt, or even on the second. Most people make better progress when instead of trying to relax the entire body at once, they concentrate on some part . Start for example, with an arm. Imagine that it is a length of old rope Let the shoulder fall inert, heavy, on the floor. Let the rest follow, all the way down the arm, until inertia has traveled through elbow, forearm, wrist and palm and the fingers feel like the limp ends of rope.
After doing this several times, start concentrating on your legs. Then on your neck and spine. After a while relaxation will become a habit and you will no longer need to think of specific areas, you will have learned to relax the entire body as a coordinated unit. When that time comes, you will be able to rest as you have never rested in your whole life. you will find a totally new sense of well being; alertness and serenity.
A regular practice of this relaxation routine will make you quite adept at doing this. Moreover, after you first feel thoroughly relaxed, you will find yourself capable of repeating the process on a deeper level – it is as though you had walked into a very quiet, deep forest, rested awhile, then walked on to where the trees are denser still and the silence deeper. In the end you will be on the very verge of drowsiness, of total inertia, your mind virtually at a standstill. When you reached that stage, you will be resting in every cell of your body.
The duration of deep relaxation
Well the time span of deep relaxation varies with its quality. The deeper the degree of relaxation, the more benefit you derive from it and the less time you need. Initially 15-30 minute is sufficient. Later on as you mastered the technique, you will able to draw enough energy and relaxation from a 10 minute period.
How to terminate the exercise ?
Well your own body will tell you when it is ready to get back into action. Remember, however, never to get up hastily or jerkily as doing so will negates the benefits of deep relaxation. The proper way to end a period of Deep Relaxation is to work your way down the muscles of the body one final time; but now by reversing the process. Instead of relaxing, restore tone control to each muscle group. Contract or stretch it, then go on to another group until you have tested them all. Conclude with one final luxurious, cat-like stretch.
Why it is better than sleep ?
Please don’t think that Sleep and deep relaxation are same in their benefits. Sleep whether, at night or during catnaps, is a fine way to rest the body. But it is the rare man or woman who relaxes thoroughly in sleep. Most of us toss and turn, and so continue tensing our muscle all night long.
Deep relaxation, on the other hand, since it is based on immobility, ensures total rest. It is a conscious, willed process, controlled by the mind which, in turn, relaxes thoroughly as the muscles begin to sag. In sleep we are likely to be fatigued by the dreams which plague our subconscious, for we all do dream, whether or not we remember our dreams. But resting while awake, after having emptied the mind of worrisome thoughts, means reaching a state of true mental repose. thus half hour of deepest relaxation can refresh an exhausted person as hours of fitful sleep never would.
After learning about the two aids of meditation, let us learn about Deep Contraction – the third yogic aid in meditation.