Yama, the first stage in Ashtanga Yoga, represents the end of the old ways and the first positive stage in the practice of self discipline by the elimination of bad habits relating both to health and character. The practices are to clear the way and demand the application of physical methods for inner body hygiene as well as the eradication of any layers of emotional and mental stress that may inhibit one’s progress to health and happiness.
For eliminating stress we have the practice of relaxation which releases strain from the whole psyche. There are many and various methods used in teaching relaxation but in Yoga, traditional preparation for practising what is known as Yoga Nidra remains constant.
We first assume the body position or asana called Savasana by lying flat on the floor along the north/south polarity if possible, arms down by the sides with eyes closed. The asana translates as the ‘Corpse’ or ‘Dead man Posture’ in which we obviously assume an immobile pose. However, we remain aware and sensitive towards our surroundings, our body sensations and energies and also become more aware of our emotional and mental states of being.
A passive peaceful body is required as a prelude to passive, peaceful states of mind experienced in the stillness of meditation.
Stillness of the body in Yoga Nidra is designed to help us become receptive, first to outward sounds and impressions and then free of external distractions, to become inwardly aware of our whole being.
Relaxation rewards us by encouraging a state of freedom, even from our own thoughts, as we enter degrees of consciousness related to feeling awareness.
We remain conscious of our surroundings, yet with a sense of acceptance, that although we are just a single life unit, we are able to sense life’s wholeness. It is a refreshing and pleasant experience where our ego tensions and anxieties melt away as we feel more and more the safety of life in its entirety.
Various subtle states of consciousness are rediscovered, sometimes for the first time since our infancy, as we find refreshment in the magical realm between sleeping and waking.
Relaxation is the state of non-action, of not doing anything. There is not effort made of any kind. . Even breathing rhythm is rhythmic, easy and without strain. In this state we yield to allow Nature to energize the body and direct all physiological functions of organs and glands as it does every day for us with our heart beat, digestion and other subconscious processes.
So as we ‘let go’ we refresh our trust in great Nature and release ourselves from the conscious controls as we do when we go to sleep, confident that rest will bring refreshment as after a cleansing shower.
Relaxation or Yoga Nidra literally means ‘the yogi’s sleep’. Although our eyes are closed and there is an appearance or semblance of sleep our awareness increases and by degrees we gradually ease ourselves away from our outer surroundings and begin to connect with our inner life and allow energy to refuel our psyche.
As we feel we let go a little more and surrender our tight attitudes we enjoy the feeling of relaxation more and more. Although each one’s experience is unique there are feelings and states
common to us all – feeling heavy, light, floating, vibrant, soothed, comfortable, free….. and the minutes seems to fly by.
It becomes no discipline or effort – we enjoy relaxation!