The art of relaxation is to learn how to completely surrender. If it was easy, we would be very relaxed people. Therefore, yogic relaxation is to be conscious of all those things, which are taking us away from surrender. Surrender, letting go, letting go…. Therefore not holding on. In our body there are many places where we hold on, without our knowing. So, yogic relaxation is about recognizing these places by being conscious and then dropping them. We experience that tensions are felt as tightness, as something hard. So when we do relaxations we’re watching in our body for anything that feels hard and we are letting that go, letting that go…
In our face, it’s a mask that we’re conscious of it and give it, therefore, our full attention. This is where we start off, the lips and the whole area around the lips. As soon as we start to become aware of the tightness there, then that takes us into the cheeks and down where the jaws meet, where the upper jaw and the lower jaw meet, a lot of tensions reside there permanently. Being fully aware there and letting go may involve making some movements between the upper and the lower jaw. The moment we give that area our attention and it starts to become soft, straight away it takes us to the area around the ears and down into the throat. It’s almost as if when one door opens, we’re able to see what is beyond that door. The throat is related to the tongue and of course the jaws. Being completely and absolutely relaxed in the tongue also involves watching, or making movements and watching what tightness there is. When the tongue is quiet it has the quality of smoothness as it flattens on the lower palate.
When the whole lower area of the face is quiet, it gives us again the clarity of the upper part of the face which is the eyes and the forehead. In the same way as the area of the mouth, including the throat, is all related to emotional strains or the emotional level in general, the eyes and the forehead is directly related to the mind. The mind is thoughts so thoughts influence this whole area. In order to relax it, we first become aware of the bottom part of the eye, which we can say is the base, the foundation for the eye. We start to soften it, we have to penetrate deep inside to soften it, and we start to then feel that the eyeball is starting to drop downwards. As the spaces are created in the socket, the eye is allowed to drop. And when the eye starts to drop, then we become aware of any tightness that there may be in the eyelids. Usually, when we concentrate we press the eyelids, we tighten the eyeballs and the socket pushes upward and thus creates all sorts of tensions in that area. So now, like this, allowing the eyes to fall downwards, and then make them to look gently down toward the chest is almost like shutting off of mind activity. We’re not applying force, we are not trying to do something. We are letting go. And so, when the eyes are made to look downwards, there should be no sense of doing; it’s almost like dropping down. And that takes us towards the temples. The energy of the eyes is not being pushed downwards towards the chest with the eyes, it is being moved towards the silence. Like a natural flow of water, as it moves, makes its way downwards, it takes us then into the awareness of the skin on the temples, which we are making passive and allowing to rest. Then we can connect the two – the right side and left side temples and allow the entire area of the forehead to become quiet.
Things come up… Whenever something comes up, there is a reaction. And most of the time anything coming up will have its reactions on the face. Like this, becoming quiet in the face, enables us to be free of the influence of the mind. And thus we allow the exhalations to take us beyond the body awareness, in the dropping of body awareness, so that we then are not connected with the body, we don’t react to everything in the body, but we are almost watching it as a third person. And then in the body breath coming in, breath going out, breath coming in and breath going out….. When we sit on the seashore watching the waves come in and go out, there’s no sense of ‘me’ or ‘mine’ as we watch it. So the breath comes in and goes out, comes in and goes out.
If you’re uncomfortable, and that discomfort is drawing you away from body, away from being rather a witness of the body and you can’t help it anymore, then your time is expired. And you can turn over to the side and continue to be quiet.
Sethubandha Sarvangasana, is wonderful relaxation pose, because the inhalations don’t need any concentration, they come in by themselves. The chest is open, it’s almost like the inhalations slide in and slide out. And our feeling is that as the breath comes in, that it is a gift of life for which when the exhalations take place, we are grateful and thankful. In our normal wakefulness, we are looking around for what we can get, be it mental, emotional or actually physical. Now let there be a sense of thankfulness, we are grateful for even that breath that we receive.
All sense of ‘I’ dissolves. Indeed, yogis have used exhalations for ages. Whenever you feel the pull that’s taking you away from peacefulness, by making the exhalations long and deep and conscious, we’re able to get back to being peaceful again. Dropping that thing which is bothering when this exhaling deep is used consciously. Therefore to drop everything whether it be body, emotions or mind, the person who learns this art cannot be stressed.
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Yoga Master Teacher Sharat Arora
Article derived from Intensive Course at the Himalaya Shanti Ashram, Dharamshala, 2011