The Sanskrit word used in Yoga for relaxation is shaithilya, which is pronounced shy-theel-yah and means “loosening.” It refers to the loosening of physical and mental tension and effort — all the knots that you tie when you don’t go with the flow of life. These knots are like kinks in a hose that prevent the water from flowing freely.

Keeping muscles in a constant alert state expends a great amount of your energy, which then is unavailable when you call upon your muscles to really function. Conscious relaxation trains your muscles to release their grip when you don’t use them. This relaxation keeps the muscles responsive to the signals from your brain telling them to contract so that you can perform the countless tasks of a busy day.

Relaxation isn’t quite the same as doing nothing. Often when you believe you’re doing nothing, you’re actually busy contracting muscles quite unconsciously. Relaxation is a conscious endeavor that lies somewhere between effort and noneffort. To truly relax, you have to understand and practice the skill.

Relaxation doesn’t require any gadgets, but you may want to try the following:

  • Practice in a quiet environment where you’re unlikely to be disturbed by others or the telephone.

  • Try placing a small pillow under your head and a large one under your knees, for support and comfort in the supine, or lying, positions. Alternatively, use a folded blanket.

  • Ensure that your body stays warm. If necessary, heat the room first or cover yourself with a blanket.

  • Don’t practice relaxation techniques on a full stomach; it can cause reflux.