Techniques of Relaxation in Yoga. Savasana and Yoga Nidra

In our century people are exposed to all kinds of stress and anxiety; even while sleeping they manage to relax with great effort.

At first glance, relaxation seems to be an easy task - a person just closes his eyes and sleeps. But actually, achieving relaxation - deep relaxation - is very difficult for most people. During the rest their mind is in the state of confusion, the body constantly moves and turns, and their muscles twitch. The biggest obstacle that must be overcome is to force yourself to take active steps to achieve relaxation, is to learn and apply various available techniques.

Primary sources of Yoga about calming the mind

The 32nd verse of the first chapter of “Hatha Yoga Pradipika” says: “Lying down on the ground, like a corpse, is called Śavaâsana. It removes fatigue and gives rest to the mind”. 

In the 11th verse of the second chapter of “Gheranda Samhita” the following descriprion of Mritasana is given: “Lying flat on the ground like a corpse is called Mritasana (the Corpse-posture). This posture destroys fatigue, and quiets the agitation of mind”. “Mind is the master of the senses, and the breath is the master of the mind. The breath in its turn is subordinate to the laya (absorption), and that laya depends on the nâda.” “This very laya is what is called moksa, or, being a sectarian, you may not call it moksa; but when the mind becomes absorbed, a sort of ecstacy is experienced.” (“Hatha Yoga Pradipika”, chapter IV, verses 29-30). Submission of Prana depends on the nerves. Smooth, sustainable, easy and deep breathing without sudden movements of the body calms nerves and mind.
The Bihar School of Yoga and Sivananda as the direction of yoga conducted research in the field of relaxation and its impact on human.

The problem of tension and inability to relax. The initial reason lies in fears and conflicts of the subconscious mind, about which we do not even have the slightest idea. We only can feel their external manifestation in the form of tension and anxiety. There is only one way to get rid of these subconscious impressions (called in Sanskrit samskaras), which make our life miserable and unhappy. This method is cognition of mind. It is only the way to achieve the goal – more permanent state of relaxation in everyday life in order to begin to explore the depths of the mind and eliminate the causes of tension. The method is so simple that many people may not understand its importance. Its essence is to gradually extinguish negative thoughts that create tension and replace them with thoughts that lead to relaxation and harmonious way of being.

Reorientation of the mind lies in examining it face to face, meeting its inner content and freeing it from the trash. But before you start doing this, it is necessary to create the foundation, bringing relaxation that will allow consciousness to go deep inward.

Yoga Nidra

In Yoga Nidra we create your own dream by visualizing a wide variety of symbols that have powerful and universal significance. These “quick images” cause other memories, generally not related, from the depths of the subconscious, and every memory, in turn, is filled with emotional stress. Thus, many types of stresses go away, the mind is freed from information unnecessary for it.

Yoga Nidra is compared with the hypnosis, but they have little in common. In hypnosis, everyone becomes very sensitive to external advice for therapeutic or other purposes; Yoga Nidra is a method of increasing self-awareness, a way to keep track of your own psychic awakening. When your body is completely relaxed, the mind is also relaxed, but you have to keep it active, turning your attention to all parts of your body, tracking the breath, experiencing different sensations, creating mental images. In Yoga Nidra you really do not sleep, you have to stay conscious during the entire practice, trying to follow all the instructions without evaluating.
During Yoga Nidra practice the decision is made, or in other words Sankalpa is performed. Sankalpa is intent, inner conviction, which reached the depths of the subconscious that is played regularly the way that it becomes a reality. It must be something very important for you. Repeat this 3 times mentally with deep conviction. It is better if your Sankalpa had a spiritual purpose, but you can also make a decision related to a desire to get rid of any habit or improve any aspects of your personality. In Yoga Nidra decisions that we make and thoughts that we create, become potentially very strong. They go into the depths of the subconscious and, over time, they definitely become reality.

Savasana

In human brain there is constant rough activity, we almost do not realize, except that small share it that reaches the conscious perception. Flow of data from the outside world and from your own body constantly enters through the organs of perception, all this information is either taken into account and causes action, or is saved or ignored. Ability not to accept this automatic activity of the brain is very valuable, because it allows the consciousness to work in a narrower field of vital interests. Everything that was screened out remains in the subconscious areas of the mind. If you met someone whom you dislike, you will perceive mostly the information that confirms the already established relationship. Perception of the world is largely due to our prejudices or our ego. It is precisely it that contains all the typical features of our personality. We are at the mercy of our mental process.
The consequences of chronic muscular tension. Increased energy demand of muscles increases the load on all body systems - respiratory, cardiovascular, and digestive. All organs have to work harder and for longer time, and ultimately it can lead to disorders and diseases.

The increased level of adrenaline. Adrenaline causes muscle tension, constriction of blood vessels, increases heart rate and respiration, accelerates thinking process. Its constant presence in the circulatory system supports physical and mental tension.
Weak because of tension body becomes less resistant to infectious diseases, immune system cannot cope with disease organisms and prevent the onset of disease.

Amazing changes happen to people during yoga practice. Many people start practicing full of voltage, which is reflected in their words and facial features, they are imbued with aggression, frustration and anxiety. But when they begin to practice, even if it is not difficult, stress and emotional turmoil disappear. A person himself cannot notice it, but the changes are reflected on his face and are noticeable from the side. At the end of the session changes that have occurred become apparent also for the practitioner when a genuine smile lights up his face, there is a feeling of lightness, freedom, and self-confidence. And this is no exception, but the logical result of the use of relaxation techniques - the attitude to yourself, to others and life in general changes. This is the starting point from which the mastery of the physical and mental relaxation begins, which is gradually becoming an integral part of life and guides you constantly in normal daily activities, and not only during the practice of yoga.

Importance of poses for relaxation cannot be overestimated. They must be carried out immediately prior to the practice of asanas and anytime when you feel tired. Asanas of this group seem to be very easy, but to execute them properly is quite difficult, because all the muscles of the body should be relaxed with the help of consciousness. Often a person believes that he is completely relaxed, but in reality, tensions remain in his body.

Person, who performs relaxation asanas well, is able to restore mental and physical forces and use them in the desired direction. Ability to direct your whole being to achieve the objective, without being distracted by extraneous things, develops. Tension leads to dissipation of energy and attention.

Dead posture is the easiest asana to perform, but the most difficult to develop it to perfection. If other asanas require your ability to maintain balance, strength and flexibility, while here complete relaxation of the body and consciousness is necessary, and this is one of the most difficult tasks.

Technique

During the execution of savasana try not to move at all.
Lie on your back on the floor, extend your legs. Place your hands at your sides, take a deep breath and tighten the muscles of your whole body. Exhale not relaxing, run several full breaths, close your eyes and relax. Allow your hands lie down freely with palms up at a distance from the hips, let your legs be apart at a distance of one and a half shoulder width, closely monitor condition of the muscles of all body parts in the following order: feet from the fingertips to the hip joints; hand from the fingertips to the shoulder joints; torso from crotch to neck; neck to the base of the skull; head; walk your attention on major joints and remove the feeling of tension in them. Breathe deeply, slowly and rhythmically. Gradually make your breath natural, some time stay in asana. Slowly get out of asana, starting slowly and deliberately wiggling all the parts of your body. 

Some people simply cannot achieve complete relaxation in savasana because of obsessive desire to give their body maximally symmetrical shape. Wherein, their visual representations of symmetry are at variance with the kinesthetic body sensations. In other words, not everything that looks symmetrically, is being felt the same way. Since all the people have congenital asymmetry, you just need to accept this fact and try to enter a state of deep emotional and physical relaxation. If you want to completely relax, you have to take your body for what it is, but not as we would like.

We need to explore our own mind and come face to face with these subconscious impressions. It takes time and effort. Most people cannot even think about the research and cognition of the mind, as for this purpose, at first, physical and mental relaxation is required. It is necessary so that we could divert our attention from the external environment and unimportant issues, sending it inside. And most people have so many problems, that their awareness is completely occupied by worries and external distracting factors. It is a way to bring in a person's life a little more permanent relaxation, so that he, over time, could begin to explore the inner regions of the mind and eliminate the real source of tension. Practicing Savasana and Yoga Nidra practices, you can reach “deep relaxation”. In this state, a very small amount of life energy (prana) is consumed, just enough to maintain vital metabolic processes. Remaining energy is being accumulated. In a certain sense, this is a method of creating a solid foundation for meditative practices.

Sources:
Bihar School of Yoga, volume 1.
Swami Sivananda. Yoga Therapy.
Oum.ru Yoga Encyclopedia