You wouldn’t believe how I learned about the benefits at relaxation. I was in drama school during my first year of college and about to fail my midterms due to a terrible stage fright. Every time the curtains rolled my pulse hiked up and my body shook from the adrenaline surge. I had worked so hard on my roles. Fleshed my characters perfectly, but the stage fright felt insurmountable and I could not deliver. My professor suggested I do a 20 minute relaxation every day, focusing on the breathing patterns and guiding every body part into a deep release. Little did I know back then about yoga and the many benefits of meditation. I still remember my acrobatics teacher lulling us into an autogenic training at the end of class. She would put us on a fluffy white cloud and let us sail the Milky Way – no longer bound to gravity. Then she lovingly brought us back into our temple – our rejuvenated body. Just a 10 minute drifting felt like a two hour sleep. It was the most delicious part of the training.
Years later when I picked up Yoga I got so hooked to“asana” that I couldn’t care less about “Savasana”. I always found excuses to skip the closing relaxation. No time. Too boring. Little patience. Why relax, when I could log in some extra poses. And to feel less guilty I would do the “progressive relaxation”, where you tense the whole body and let it loose for 30 seconds. And then run off to the next class. And so I went on for 10 years – advancing in my poses, but not being able to apply the lessons of yoga in my life.
Until one day I burned out and got terribly injured. Then life forced me to glance back and appreciate the restorative power of relaxation. Actually, Savasana became my favorite “asana”. I changed my fashion of yoga and instead of hammering the same routine every day, I alternated between relaxing, restorative, empowering, rejuvenating, healing and inspiring. I crafted out a week-long routine calendar, where I experienced the different flavors of Yoga. Some days I focused on alignment, other days I made meditation a priority. And others I worked on my breathing.
When we surrender to the repetitive pattern of our breathing and we widen the gap between the inhalation and the exhalation we open up space for healing and rejuvenation. As a matter of fact, a sound “Savasana” allows you to reap the benefits of all the asanas practiced in class. This is when the body absorbs the information and takes inventory. This is when the cells open up to receive life force and the mind quiets down. This is when the nervous system takes a nap and elicits the relaxation response. This is how we learn to respond adequately to life situations, learning that every situation perceived properly becomes an opportunity to heal. Finding the “repose” in the “pose” is the secret to enjoying yoga for life.
It is unfortunate that while most people feel relaxation is important, only a few of us practice it daily. We feel that it is yet another “must-do” of the day. While we make relaxation a healthy habit, we must not stress about it. It doesn’t always have to happen at the same hour and place. It could be practiced both indoors and outdoors. True, there are some manic days when we feel there’s no time for it. But even then if we find 5 minutes to close our eyes, even if we are sitting at our desk, on the bus or at the hairdresser, we can still reap the myriad benefits of this replenishing practice.
The relaxation response releases muscle tension, lowers blood pressure and slows the heart and breath rates. As a result the glands secrete vital hormones that bathe the organs and boost all bodily systems. Strikingly, relaxation and meditation are known to boost immunity, regulate metabolism and promote healthy sleep. The body is no longer subject to fight or flight and free from unnecessary cortisol spikes. As we relax we reduce the need for oxygen and increase blood flow to the muscles and all vital organs. We feel less tense, more focused and efficient. We participate in the drama of life without falling prey to the melodrama. We have less headaches and pain, both literally and figuratively. And we know how to mitigate stress the moment it resurges. Just by focusing on the pattern of our breath and carving time for a soothing relaxation. All it takes is a quite place and a ten-minute immersion into the sound of your breath. You will be surprised at the results if you commit to it daily. You will feel not only the physical boost, but also loosen the grip of the mind and experience the ascent of spirit. And you will have more time to spare, and more exciting ideas to implement.
Make relaxation a priority and take charge of your life by responding to challenges coherently and choosing wisely. No more excuses. Don’t put it off for tomorrow. It’s simple. Start today…
Relaxing Yoga Routine: Zen Out
This Yogea routine offers a compendium of calming and tension relieving poses. It integrates trigger point massage and a smooth flow of kneeling, supine, reclining and seated poses that Zen out the mind and dust off tension stored in the body. A brief introspective visualization sets the tone for a time to relax and replenish. Gentle backbends alternate with shoulder openers to release tension lurking in the back. A round of foot and facial reflexology lends way to an organically transitioning flow of supine reclining twists, hip, shoulder, quad and hamstring openers that provide myofascial release and stimulate glandular secretion. Seated forward bends coupled with shoulder opening binds and twists calm the mind, purify the filter organs, cool the body’s temperature and boost the production of sleep inducing hormones. A comforting relaxation chills you out and nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system to signal that its time to unwind and replenish.