Relaxation matters BIG TIME. Feeling a little under the weather with a sneaky, persistent cold,I wish I could leave it at that; yet if you're anything like me, you don't simply take it a face value, you want to know what, why, how. Here's a prequel to a longer article I'll be publishing in a few weeks' time (please forgive the staccato sentences, I'm under the influence of said cold!).
When I first encountered true whole being relaxation, I was blown away. Following a 20 minute Somatics audio recording by Amy Matthews, I was lying down the whole time, shifting slightly here and there, before resting. A leg outstretched, an arm traced a circle. I felt so embedded in my skin and floor in a way I had never experienced. I knew I had to dive deeper and have since spent the last three years exploring somatic practices. These have fundamentally changed my practice, teaching in regards to the appreciation for the healing power of relaxation, an undervalued intentional practice in relation to injury prevention, rehabilitation, sleep problems, stress, optimal performance and so much more.
Our autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for just about everything, has two parts: sympathetic (let's go) and parasympathetic (now stop). These two parts are equal in their importance helping to regulate our energy levels, digestion, sleep, stress levels, and our overall sense of wellbeing. Yet if both components are so important, why are we so parasympathetically deficient?
The human quest to discover and achieve has allowed us to make huge technological leaps, pushing the boundaries of space and time, and what can be achieved in a working day. The possibility of what we can be sees many us in near-constant 'on' mode with the idea of switching 'off' a threatening proposition. At least this is how it felt, and sometimes feels, for me.
Co-founder of this yoga and a medically-trained doctor, Christoph Seiland says: "Relaxation is the basis of healing and regeneration as it works from the inside-out. The more relaxed we are, the more resources the body can recruit for recovery and regeneration for our bodily systems which is especially important during periods of stress.
"Anyone who's experienced stress can testify how even sleep is not relaxing. During such times, we have to do things to intentionally relax and reset our whole being."
Bringing awareness to increasing tension then relaxing helps us to distinguish between chronic, low-level contraction and release. It's well known in exercise science that a chronically tight muscle is not able to contract optimally due to its weakened, permanently switched on state. When we can release such areas, there is a profound sense of refreshed relief, with one person saying, "I feel so good, it's like I've plugged in to a socket and switched on."
When we speak about muscles, we're not saying one part that is separate from the whole, but rather a part of the body that is intertwined with the whole. As such, we release the psoas muscle, we experience a sense of relief that effects not only the psoas but spreads through the whole body and will have an effect on how we conduct ourselves thereafter.
Such a feeling comes not from pushing harder, but first of all bringing awareness to any areas of tension, then releasing. Trusting into the felt experience of the body is not only key to relaxing into yourself but also feeling the body as a resource of wisdom.
When we practice relaxation intentionally and with patience, it is simply not possible to maintain the same "gotta keep pushing" mentality. Just as heart rate variability is key to heart health, I see mindset variability as vital to our overall health and our ability to shift gears between doing and non-doing. Relaxation matters BIG TIME.
If you'd like to experience these principles in action, then pop-over to our free Settle into Here & Now Yoga class, a 35 minute session for release and relaxation.
Ok, back to my tissues and relaxation!