All my classes end with a lovely, deep, luxurious relaxation. It’s so important to take the time – whether in a yoga class or any other time through the day – to properly wind down and let go. Savasana (lying flat on your back) is often said to be the hardest of all the yoga poses. Students laugh at that – how can just lying down be so difficult?? But it’s true – it’s not the lying down itself which is so hard (for most of us anyway) but the letting go. Really letting go. Releasing and surrendering your body, mind and ego to find true peace.
Relaxing at the end of a yoga class allows the body to cool down after the physical activity, but it does so much more besides. When you are lying down, your heart is at the same level as the rest of your body, making the work of the heart easier and allowing your cardiovascular system to rest. Your muscles also no longer have to work to overcome gravity. Proper relaxation allows us to better handle stress too. Yoga teachings also say that by turning away from the physical body and the senses, and directing our attention inwards, we can discover our True Self. When we are not living solely in the mind or the body, letting those things still exist but not giving them our full attention, we can experience a mind-blowing ocean of peace where our True Self, our spirit or whatever you want to call it, resides. Me, I call it “The Knowing” – it is the voice of my intuition, the voice I remember from childhood inside my head, the voice which gets drowned out by thoughts and sensory information. It feels incredible to connect with that inner being and doing so regularly will bring huge benefits to your mental wellbeing.
I always find it so interesting to watch my students at relaxation time. New students struggle to settle; fidgeting and coughing, scratching and wriggling. It’s wonderful to see how, as the weeks progress, they manage to relax more and more, to treasure this opportunity for a bit of self-care. It’s also interesting to observe all the rituals my students have developed for getting themselves into and out of relaxation. Most use blankets of some sort, some use cushions, eye masks, extra socks, jumpers, even duvets – they get really good at making themselves perfectly comfortable and ready to relax and it’s wonderful to see. There is nothing like making a cosy nest and snuggling down.
Since my classes are particularly gentle, they are ideal for those with injuries, illnesses or long term conditions. This means that some of my students are not able to lie flat on their backs at all. So we adapt. We can build a nest just as easily with legs bent, or lying on the side, on the front or even sitting up on a chair. There is no point making someone lie in a position which just isn’t comfortable for them – they can’t possibly relax like that. Similarly when I am teaching children’s yoga, it is so much better if they just find whatever comfortable position works best for them.
So how do we relax? I usually run through a body scan, focussing on and relaxing different parts of the body in turn. We also use different breathing exercises – from just noticing the breath and the tiny movements of the body as you breath in and out, to extending the breath or counting the breath. We also use visualisations aimed at reducing stress and negative energy. I encourage my students to come out of their deep relaxation very, very slowly and at their own pace. There’s nothing worse than being all lovely and relaxed then being snapped out of it too quickly, as I have experienced in some other classes. We then take a few moments to come round, ready to face the day. I really enjoy seeing all those blissful, peaceful faces blinking their eyes and coming round slowly.
I love the relaxation part of the classes so much that if any of my students feels so inclined I invite them to spend the whole 60 or 90 minute class just doing that. We so rarely give ourselves that sort of time in our busy day to just be still and quiet.
If you would like to experience this blissful deep relaxation for yourself, then you are warmly invited to any of my classes or a one-to-one session. Or feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about your relaxation practice and how to relax more.