Person RelaxingThe Importance of Relaxation by Sue Fuller

Learning relaxation techniques and practicing them on a regular basis will help to counteract many of the stresses and strains that we incur on a daily basis.

When we relax our heart rate and blood pressure lowers, stress hormones become less active, the mind becomes clearer, anxieties are reduced and feelings of anger and frustration are diffused.  It is during relaxation that the body is able to effectively digest food and the heart and nervous system are able to rest. 

In todays’ busy world we are subjected to all kinds of stresses and strains, which can take its toll on the body.  Relaxing regularly will help us maintain a healthy balance and counteract any excessive stress.  Through yoga we learn many techniques to increase and enhance our ability to relax.  Relaxing is nature’s way of recharging.

Many people experience high levels of stress, we do have to remember that, stress is very much required and useful.  However, too much stress has the potential to be extremely harmful for our health and wellbeing.  Stress can be the main cause of headaches, irritability, IBS, fatigue, nervousness, low self- esteem and insomnia.  In severe cases the side effects of stress can be extremely detrimental.

 Here is a little science – the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for activating the “fight or flight response”, the body enters this state during times of increased stress.  When this state is triggered we experience an increase in heart rate and blood pressure and we are provided with additional speed and strength to help us deal with the present situation.  The fight or flight response is extremely useful when we encounter life threatening or very stressful situations.   

The parasympathetic nervous system activates the “rest and digest response” or the “relaxation response” during this time our blood pressure and heart rate lowers, the mind calms, digestion occurs and the body and mind are able to rest and recover.

Both these states can be life- saving – “fight or flight” will enable us to react with strength and speed to help combat any danger or act quickly in a stressful situation, whilst the “rest and digest” response promotes long term health and wellbeing. 

It is in Yoga during the final relaxation that the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system is activated and the body is able to recover and reset itself, this time allows us to process what we have learnt in the yoga class, new habits begin to form and we are able to deeply connect with ourselves on a physical and emotional level.

Savasana - The Corpse - Yoga PostureThe relaxation techniques taught during Savasana can then be drawn on to help us maintain a healthy balance between stress and relaxation.

Savasana (the Corpse)

The corpse posture is also referred to as the final relaxation.

Lay comfortably on your back on a yoga mat.  Extend your legs and position your feet a little wider than the hips so that you can relax the muscles of the pelvis and allow the legs to rotate outwards.  Position your arms alongside your body with your palms facing up with a space between your upper arm and your torso. 

Breathe slowly through your nose and allow your body and mind to rest.  During this time it is a good idea to start by connecting with your breath and just noticing how the breath influences body and mind.  Allow the body to relax and surrender to the ground with each out breath, feel yourself becoming heavier with each exhalation.  Once you have established a deep sense of release, you can allow your focus to move away from your breath and enjoy a deep sense of release.Yoga Relaxations by Sue Fuller

During Savasana there are many different techniques that can be practiced to encourage deep relaxation, such as guided relaxations, body scans and various breathing techniques.  It is also possible to place a small cushion under your head and cover yourself with a blanket so that you are warm and comfortable.

 “Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.” Chinese Proverb

Sue Fuller is a yoga teacher and writer with over twenty years of experience.  Sue is the creator of the Yoga 2 Hear range of audio yoga classes, meditations and relaxations (yoga2hear.co.uk), a course author for the BSY and a regular columnist for the Yoga Magazine.