Newsletter November 2012
The Art of Relaxation by Swami Muktidharma
Relaxation is the initial, natural state in which we start life, before passing through the traumatic experiences that occur as we continue to grow and become immersed in society and physical reality. An example of total relaxation is when we are in the mother’s womb. Birth itself seems to be a physically traumatic experience because we experience pain when inhaling for the first time, as the lung holes are forced open to receive oxygen. Despite the physical challenges of birth, babies and young children have a simple way of looking at life and they are naturally relaxed and open, pure and present. As they get older they mirror the examples around them and stress also infects the children, so that they lose that natural state of relaxation.
Relaxation is our birthright and increasing our awareness leads us back to this natural state.
Understanding the role and origin of tension is a necessary first step towards relaxation. Tension is a mental or emotional way of approaching or responding to particular situations that we have developed through our upbringing, personality, family and social conditioning. A certain amount of tensing up is a natural part of many bodily processes. For example breathing, digestion of food and cardiovascular functions are a natural combination of tensing and relaxing. During our everyday activities a certain degree of stress and pressure is acceptable. When stress is appropriately managed, it helps to make things function effectively. However, when we lose awareness and the tensions and stresses become continuous, we develop an attitude that hinders our way of being or performing in the present. This moves us in a harmful direction. Our body systems have a limited capacity for bearing stress and when we exceed the limits, we find ourselves affected by a breakdown in our physical and/or mental health.
Mind and body are inseparably linked and therefore affect and influence each other through psychosomatic or somatopsychic processes. Mental conditions influence the body and vice versa. It is almost impossible to find a case where there is a physical tension without the influence of a mental state. Physical tensions are generally a result of the mental state that passes into a system of the body e.g. the respiratory system is affected by stress and fear; asthma or eosinophilia may result. Sometimes glands are also affected as in the case of diabetes, or perhaps the circulatory system receives the tension and creates low or high blood pressure.
The main cause of tension in this world is the inability to flow with life.
Our fears and insecurities become barriers to our evolutionary path. In order to flow with life, the first thing we should do is to train ourselves to contact our inner potential through yoga, meditation and an egoless lifestyle. Glimpses of our inner potential assist us to trust life and flow with it, rather than trying to control it. Faith cannot be blind; faith is a grace that appears when we have access to the unknown aspects of ourselves, and this access is only possible when we refine our consciousness to be able to experience glimpses beyond the limited sensual world.
Relaxation, like tension, can be emotional, mental and physical. However, they are both inter-related and result in the body being affected in a negative or positive way. A purely physical imbalance, which is rare, may also affect us mentally and emotionally. Physical relaxation is not possible without mental and emotional relaxation. With developing awareness, it is possible to achieve complete relaxation at all levels.
There are tensions that are concealed within our unconscious minds, making it impossible for us to see them. This situation is the best environment for survival of viruses in the mind. It seems that the only way to have access to the unconscious layer of the mind is to be able to remain conscious while touching the unconscious realm. This is the secret to seeing the root of the impressions that are influencing and determining our actions.
We can see that ignorance creates fears, and fears lead to all kinds of tensions. In the moment that we have a glimpse of our deeper self, we start releasing ignorance and creating the light of awareness. This awareness opens a new door for our growth and helps to liberate us from tensions and stresses. The yogis have created a way to awaken the dormant mind by developing consciousness and eliminating unconsciousness - this practice is known as Satyananda Yoga Nidra or psychic sleep. Yoga Nidra is a deep relaxation technique that gradually helps the practitioner to consciously access the unconscious and pull out the deep roots that create fear, tension and ultimately dis-ease.
Stress, with awareness and well directed, can be useful for the effective functioning of various activities. However, when we lose the awareness, we allow stress to become continuous and our system is overtaken by it, resulting in psychosomatic diseases. Natural stress then becomes distress. Relaxation is directly related to wisdom. The more wisdom, the more relaxation and conversely the more relaxation, the more wisdom.