Sleeping is not relaxing

Savasana - via Flickr

Do you manage to properly relax every day?

Of course, I hear you say – I SLEEP. Well, that’s the point. Your body sleeps. Your mind might not be as relaxed as you think. Did you ever wake up at 3am, thinking “OMG, I need to send this email”, or, “I forgot to tell X about the meeting tomorrow”? Of course, these thoughts don’t come out of nowhere. During night, the brain puts the house in order, if you want. Everything we’ve experienced during the day is evaluated and put into little boxes – we would be driving mad otherwise.

So if we want relaxation to happen it needs to be a conscious process. We need to take time for it. Not easy in an environment where we are constantly the target of external influences (think media, workplace and even what we call entertainment) that keep our mind busy – even those ones apparently designed to relax us.

How can we start this conscious process? Just as every physical action is the result of a thought, the mind can also send a message to the muscles to relax. The process of relaxation starts with the toes and moves upwards until the entire body is absolutely relaxed, ideally lying stretched out on the floor, feet apart and palms turned upwards. This is the physical relaxation – mentally going through all the body parts and consciously bringing relaxation to them.  Many people find it helpful to quickly tense all the different body parts in order to bring more awareness to the relaxation afterwards. That’s particularly helpful for all the tensions we hold out of habit, for example pressing the teeth together or raising the eyebrows. This yoga posture, called Savasana (Corpse Pose) is, however, just the beginning.

The tricky part now is the mental relaxation.

You can be in Savasana for hours without experiencing anything that comes close to a calm mind. Someone next to you on the other mat is moving. People are talking outside. There’s this annoying fly buzzing around. Your toe is itchy…(you see what I mean). The yogis call this “action in inaction”. Your body is still, but your mind goes crazy – particularly because the body is forced into a static position and the mind is bored without any external stimulation. So what to do? Mental relaxation can be aided by calming down the breath and focus on its rhythm. It’s hard to stick with it, but after several minutes the mind tends to calm down and the body starts floating. Key is to put aside (at least for the moment) all tensions and worries, all anxieties, anger and fear. This will bring full relaxation in a way sleep can never do. It will bring a smile on your face and boost your energy level – forget that cup of coffee you were about to make!

Happy relaxation!

Categories: Yoga

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