In this blog, we have focused on integrative, mind-body solutions to a variety of issues. The enormous mainstream popularity of yoga, in its many forms, is in part because of the increased awareness in our society of the mind/body/soul connection. Although there are many forms and “schools” of yoga, we want to focus specifically on Relaxation Yoga (or “Restorative Yoga”) in this post.
We all know that stress creates emotional and somatic (physical) responses. Meditation, reading, watching movies, and other quiet activities may all seem like effective stress reducers (and often are), however it’s important to remember that we must also activate and release that stored energy from the body. The most effective way to do that may differ from person to person. Someone who reacts to stress by withdrawing may find certain yoga asanas (positions) more effective than the person who reacts with overexcitement. It is important to experiment and find the best practices for yourself.
The simplest forms of yoga for relaxation involve the breath.
- Focused attention on each breath while counting
- Abdominal breathing
- Alternate nostril breathing
The stretches involved in the easier of the standard poses create a relaxation response in the body, while the active but gentle movement from one pose to another can be effective in releasing stored energy. Many of the seated or prone poses calm the mind and body, while standing poses can energize. Once again, experiment to find the best forms for you.
Most potent of all for full-body relaxation is Yoga Nidra, which in Sanskrit means “sleep of the yogi.” (Many yogis believe that whether we are asleep or awake, we live in a dream.) This is a form of lucid sleeping, an advanced practice. It is a progressive practice that begins with conscious relaxation, attention to the breath, and mindfulness. It can deepen into a fuller state of conscious awareness.
There are countless resources online and in bookstores to support you in beginning a daily use of yoga. You should find that over time, your stress levels drop and your reactions to stressful events become reduced.
Soul Wisdom Therapy’s Deborah Cohen has been trained in iRest Restorative Yoga to work with individual clients and in groups. The Awakening to Spirit Group is now learning the practices – we invite you to join us.