Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Learning to Relax

So, why did I feel the need to create a “I Really Need to Relax” sequence?

Hubby and I had been in Melbourne a week. The days were spent reacquainting ourselves with the city, visiting the newer areas of Docklands and South Wharf, discovering the changes in the suburb where we used to live, and attending the shows we had booked as part of the International Comedy Festival.

We arrived on a Sunday night. By Tuesday I was feeling lost—I didn't know what to do with myself. A week later, we're walking down the street and Hubby asks “Are you relaxing yet? Or have you forgotten how?”. And you know what? He was right-I had forgotten how to relax.

It had been 15 months since we both had a couple of weeks off together and, except for a weekend in Blackheath at the beginning of March, almost two years since we had a trip away from home.

The project on which we were engaged we were continually battling scope-creep; the work required was increasing and the deadlines were getting tighter. I was constantly on the go, getting into the office early and finishing late. It didn't help that the first day interstate I visited the Melbourne office to hand back a laptop and everywhere I looked I seemed to glimpse the client's logo triggering memories of what still needed to be done.

Self-diagnosing, my problem was (and still is) that I was unfocused and over-stimulated. I was vegging out in front of the television or reviewing tourist guides or busy planning our days. I found it very difficult after constantly working to stop and slow down. In his book, Yoga Nidra, Swami Satyananda states that activities like watching television are not relaxation but ways of diverting the senses. For true relaxation, we must release tensions at three levels: physical, mental and emotional.

Swami Satyananda developed the practice of yoga nidra to help people achieve ‘true’ relaxation but for yoga nidra to be most effective the practitioner must remain alert. Generally, my mind starts to wander from the instructions and I fall asleep. So I was intrigued when I read this article on relaxation techniques for stress relief that states that different practices are required based on how you react to stress. My stress response seems to be Frozen—I tend to become agitated in some situations, depressed in others—and if I'm in a depressed state yoga nidra is not appropriate.

That night I was feeling tense around the shoulders and neck, overtired and restless. So I developed the “I Really Need to Relax’ asana sequence as a short active sequence to help me relax before I went to bed. I tend to neglect my pranayama and meditation practices (and this was true in Melbourne) possibly because I'm so physically tense that plunging straight into these practices does not seem effective. However, adding alternate nostril breathing and yoga nidra is a nice way to balance and relax the body and mind after the asana sequence releases the physical tensions.

I don't know whether it was the sequence or just my increased awareness that I was not relaxing but that night I could feel muscles getting 'twitchy' as the tension slipped away. With the way my mind works I'm not sure I'll ever truly relax but I can keep trying!


  1. Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief, Lawrence Robinson, Robert Segal, Jeanne Segal, and Melinda Smith
  2. Yoga Nidra, Swami Satyananda Saraswati
  3. Photo: Relaxation by kelsey_lovefusionphoto
    Sourced from flickr and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence

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