In yoga, relaxation refers to the loosening of bodily and mental tension. Keeping muscles in a constant alert state expends a great amount of your energy, which then is unavailable when your muscles are called upon 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 all the countless tasks of a busy day.

Tips for a successful yoga relaxation practice

Relaxation is a conscious endeavor that lies somewhere between effort and noneffort. To truly relax, you have to understand and practice the skill. Try the following:

  • Practice in a quiet environment where you are 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.

  • Ensure that your body stays warm. If necessary, heat the room first or cover yourself with a blanket. Particularly avoid lying on a cold floor, which isn’t good for your kidneys.

  • Don’t practice relaxation techniques on a full stomach.

Deep relaxation in yoga: The corpse posture

The simplest and yet the most difficult of all yoga postures is the corpse posture, also widely known as the dead pose. The corpse posture is an exercise in mind over matter. The only props you need are your body and mind.

Here is how you do the corpse pose:

  1. Lie flat on your back, with your arms stretched out and relaxed by your sides, palms up (or whatever feels most comfortable).

    Place a small pillow under your head if you need one and another large pillow under your knees for added comfort.

  2. Close your eyes.

  3. Form a clear intention to relax.

    Some people find it helpful to picture themselves lying in white sand on a sunny beach.

  4. Take a couple of deep breaths, lengthening exhalation.

  5. Contract the muscles in your feet for a couple of seconds and then consciously relax them.

    Do the same with the muscles in your calves, upper legs, buttocks, abdomen, chest, back, hands, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, neck, and face.

  6. Periodically scan all your muscles from your feet to your face to check that they are relaxed.

    You can often detect subtle tension around the eyes and the scalp muscles. Also relax your mouth and tongue.

  7. Focus on the growing bodily sensation of no tension and let your breath be free.

  8. At the end of the session, before opening your eyes, form the intention to keep the relaxed feeling for as long as possible.

  9. Open your eyes, stretch lazily, and get up slowly.

    Practice 10 to 30 minutes; the longer the duration the better.

    The corpse is the most popular of all yoga poses.
    The corpse is the most popular of all yoga poses.

Use yoga for relaxation before sleep

If you want to enjoy deep sleep or are experiencing insomnia (but don’t want to count sheep), the following exercise can help you. Many people don’t make it to the end of this relaxation technique without falling asleep.

For this exercise, you need the following props: a bed or other comfortable place to sleep, two pillows, and one or two blankets. Allow five to ten minutes. Follow these steps:

  1. Prepare yourself for sleep and get into bed, lying on your back under the blankets.

    Your legs can be straight or bent at the knees with your feet flat on the mattress.

  2. Place one pillow under your head and have the other one close by.

  3. With your eyes closed, begin to breathe through the nose, making your exhalation twice as long as your inhalation.

    Keep your breathing smooth and effortless. Also, don’t try to direct your breath to any part of your body. Let the 1:2 breathing ratio be effortless, something you can keep up.

  4. Remain on your back for eight breaths, then roll over onto your right side and place the second pillow between your knees.

    Now use the same 1:2 ratio for 16 breaths.

  5. Finally, roll over on to your left side, with the second pillow still between your knees, and use the 1:2 ratio for 32 breaths.

About This Article

This article can be found in the category: