This is one of best method of the Relaxation: The Pranayama. If you do only this, nothing else is needed. This is having the all. Even those diseases cannot be cured by the medicines, can be cured with the pranayama. Diseases, stress, tensions, worries, depressions, etc are just words in front of this pranayama. These words have no value no value for you if you do the Pranayama. Relaxation is already there, there is no need of any search of relaxation. It is there and there is no question of relaxation also. You are Relaxed and some more may it is creativity. The benefits of Pranayama of over body and mind are in numbers, not countable, endless. It means that there is no any benefit, which is known and not attained by Pranayama. Every known benefit of body and mind can be attained by Pranayama. Here is sequence of some of pranayama, which must be practiced daily for 40 to 60 minutes. This is more than enough. It is up to you that which pranayama is required how much time. But one thing is required that is to do all the eight Pranayama and shava asana. Ideally, it should be like following way:
1. BHASTRIKA PRANAYAMA: FOR 10 MINUTES.
2. KHAPALBHATI PRANAYAMA: FOR 15 MINUTES.
3. MAHA BANDHA PRANAYAMA: FOR 3- 5 TIMES.
4. AGNISAR KRIYA: 3-5 TIMES.
5. UJJAYI PRANAYAMA: 3-5 TIMES.
6. ANULOM- VILOMA PRANAYAMA: 15 MINUTES.
7. BHRAMARI PRANAYAMA: 5 TIMES.
8. UDGEETH PRANAYAMA: 5 TIMES
THE FINAL - Shava Asana 5-10 MINUTES.
1. BHASTRIKA PRANAYAMA
Sanskrit Bhastrika means 'bellows'. Rapid succession of forcible expulsion is a characteristic feature of Bhastrika.
Bhastrika pranayama - procedure
Bhastrika pranayama is all about inhaling and exhaling completely so that your body gets maximum amount of oxygen. Follow the steps given below and learn to do Bhastrika pranayama.
Benefits of Bhastrika pranayama
Yoga is the method to attain self-enlightenment. Meditation helps to achieve tranquility.Pranayama is a way to improve your immune system. Bhastrika is a Sanskrit word, which means bellows. In Bhastrika pranayama, the breathing pattern resembles the blowing of bellows. Following are the health benefits of performing Bhastrika Pranayam:
1. Relieves inflammation of the throat.
2. Increases gastric fire.
3. Removes diseases of the nose and chest and eradicates asthma etc.
4. It gives good appetite.
5. It breaks and dissolves the tumors.
6. It enables one to know the Kundalini.
7. It removes all diseases, which arise from excess of wind, bile and phlegm.
8. It gives warmth to the body.
9. Purifies the Nadis considerably.
10. Very much useful in Muscular Dystrophy and Oxygen deficiency disorders.
11. This Pranayama brings about a proper balance of the three Doshas i.e. Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, and maintains their balance. Blood is purified and the body gets rid of foreign objects and toxins.
12. Stabilizes Prana and calms mind, and helps the upward journey.
13. Helps to throw out toxins and cures illnesses of respiratory track.
14. Boosts the supply of oxygen and purifies blood.
15. Helps to keep negative thoughts away.
16. Increases warmth in the body and helps to prevent common cold.
17. Regular practice of Bhastrika pranayama keeps you away from all diseases.
Regular practice of Pranayama purifies blood and enhances oxygen flow. Performing Pranayama in the early morning helps to obtain naturally glowing.
The secret to ageless skin is pranayama. You will not need to spend money on expensive beauty products to hide your age once you get to know the results of pranayama practice. Pranayama is the key to better living.
Precaution for Bhastrika pranayama:
People who are pregnant or have high blood pressure should not practice this pranayama. Beginners should practice this pranayama slowly at first, allowing their bodies time to adapt to the practice. Bhastrika is essentially a controlled hyperventilation, so the increased levels of oxygen in your bloodstream may make you feel lightheaded or anxious, especially if you are new to the practice. If this happens, take a break and allow your breath to return to normal.
2. KHAPALBHATI PRANAYAMA
Sit in a comfortable asana with normal breathing. Inhale normally and exhale forcefully. Also, keep the body easy and relax, do not feel like stress. As a beginner, the force should be very low as per the body strength. Continue this practice until you can perform comfortably. Whenever feel tired, take a break with normal breathing and then resume. Optimize your practice to make “one stroke per second”. The ideal frequency for the kapalbhati is once per second.
Abdominal area also makes inward and outward movements and considerable force is applied to the Manipura, Svadhisthana and Muladhara Chakra. That is very helpful for Kundalini Jagran. In the beginning, the practitioner may feel little pain in the abdomen and back because of new strain to the body, which disappears after some days.
Vow with performing Kapalbhati
At the time of forcefully ‘exhaling’, the practitioner should assume like throwing all impurities, toxins, diseases out of the body. Those who want to get rid of anger, greed, self-ego attachment etc. should develop a feeling of throwing out all the negative and injurious elements along with the air exhaled. This procedure will give you an additional advantage and quick results.
A new practitioner should try for 3 – 5 minutes per day. The body gains more stamina as days passes. After 1-2 months, practitioner can perform five minutes in single stretch. Practice should be increased up to 10 – 15 minutes daily after 2-3 months.
Patients suffering from acute and chronic diseases must practice for 15 minutes at least along with precautions.
Effects of Kapalbhati in the body (Scientific Explanation)
In Kapalbhati, ‘impulsive force’ is applied with greater magnitude while the ‘stroke time’ is very small, as we, all know by law of physics:
Impulse=Force X Time
If ‘Time’ is small and ‘Force’ is greater so the change in ‘linear momentum’ create greater pressure on the near by organs and glands of the cavity of lungs. The force communicated quickly as force of contact to all parts from one to another.
So that the imbalanced secretion from different glands will be balanced. Blood circulation in different parts of the body will be faster creating action on diseased affected parts. This Pranayam is a complementary one to ‘Bhastrika Pranayam”.
Kapalbhati primarily affects stomach, pancreas, liver, spleen, intestine, prostate and kidney to function more efficiently. These are very significant parts of human body. Any disease of these organs, which cannot be controlled by any medicine, is surly cured by regular practice of kapalbhati.
All the chakras from ‘Muradhar’ to ‘Shasrar’ are purified and filled with pious Cosmic Energy.
Kapalbhati Pranayama cures
3. MAHA BANDHA PRANAYAMA
To understand the Maha Bandha Pranayama, let understand the three Bandhs diferentlu first.
In this bandh, it is expected to contract the muscles of the neck and to press the chin firmly on to the depression at the end of the throat (jugular notch).
The neck is to be bent a little for achieving this bandh. But it should not be bent much. It is to be pressed onto the depression just as a spring is pressed with a little force. The release of the force brings the spring back into normal position. The same principle is to be applied in this bandh. Since all the muscles of the neck and the throat are contracted totally, a force is exerted onto the seven paths in the throat. The presence of the force interferes with the breathing process. Hence, this bandh is to be attained after Pooraka and is to be released before Rechaka. The bandh is necessary in Kumbhaka.
Stand up with distance of 1 to 1.5 feet between the legs. Bend a little in the knees and place left palm on the left knee and right palm on the right knee. Bend the shoulders a little towards the front and the neck also towards the front so that the weight of the body is shifted onto the knees through the hands. This reduces the strain on the stomach and the muscles of the stomach can be relaxed. Inhale deeply and then exhale gradually.
While exhaling, try to shift the muscles of the stomach towards inner side. Lift up the ribs a little bit and push the muscles from within with a gentle push towards the upward direction. The muscles of the stomach must be relaxed at this time, so that they can be pushed up. This results in muscles of diaphragm being pushed upwards. This is the final stage of Uddiyan Bandh. Try to remain firmly in this pose. This pose is to be retained when the breath is fully exhaled. When there is an urgent need to inhale, the bandh must be released gradually as under.
Relax the muscles of the stomach so that they are slowly released back to the normal position. Diaphragm will also be released to the normal pose.
Relax the pressure in the shoulders and neck area and start inhaling gradually.
After inhaling completely, bring back the hands into the normal pose and straighten out the bent knees.
Join both the legs together and come back into the standing pose.
After sitting in Siddhasan, the left heel is properly placed under the penis. The weight of the body creates pressure on that part. After achieving a firm pose, the anal muscles and the other surrounding muscles should be contracted and moved upwards. This is the pose of the mulbandh.
The anus has two muscles. One inside and the other outside. Both these muscles are round. It is expected in this bandh to contract these muscles and to lift them upwards. However, these muscles alone are not to be contracted and lifted but the other surrounding muscles should also be similarly contracted and lifted. The muscles of the penis are also to be lifted in this bandh. Achieving pose in this bandh is easier; however, it is important to be in the same pose for a while. This is difficult and requires quite a bit of practice.
The so-called bandhas (lock exercises) are also associated with the mudras in classical yoga.
• Assume the seated meditation posture. Now exhale well. At the same time, press your hands onto your thighs and tighten the musculature around the perineum (PC) by tensing the bladder and the sphincter muscles at the same time, as if you wanted to hold back feces and urine (Mula Bandha). In ordinary exercise this is call the Kegel exercise.
• Then pull in the abdominal wall (Uddiyana Bandha).
• And press the chin onto the larynx (Jalandhara Bandha).
• After a few seconds, release every tension, raise the chin, and inhale deeply.
• Repeat it for 3-5-7 times as per body feels comfortable.
Effect: The Maha Bandha can be used for a weak bladder, hemorrhoids, constipation, descended organs, weak digestion, flat breathing, or neck tension; it has a preventive effect on these symptoms or diseases. The brain energy is also activated by the contractions of the bandha. Brian energy gets sharpens. It removes the restlessness of the mind. It may lead to a light trance, which can sometimes be quite pleasant.
4. AGNISAR KRIYA
This cleansing technique draws its name from the words 'Agni' (Fire), Sar (Essence) and Kriya (Action). Fire is the essential element of digestion and this cleansing action stimulates this fire for the digestive system to work at its optimum level.
Agnisar Kriya procedure
In this, while standing bend slightly forward from the waist while keeping the back straight. Take support by resting your hands on your knees or just above so that the back is not strained. Please make sure the arms are straight.
Now, breathe in deeply. After this, exhale fully contracting the abdomen and lugs so that all the air is expelled. While holding breath in this position, contract or 'flap' your abdominal muscles in and out. Note that this should be done rapidly while holding the exhaled position WITHOUT inhaling. Do this as many times possible and then take a slow, deep breath inside. This is one round of the practice.
Beginners may find that they lose control of the abdominal muscles and are unable to coordinate the flapping movement. These muscles must be slowly developed over time. Therefore, in the beginning three such rounds, each of 10 flapping cycles are more than enough. This should gradually be built up to 100 inward-outward flapping cycles in each round.
Time: This practice should ideally be done in the morning on an empty stomach but after evacuating the bowels.
Who should not do?
People with High BP, heart disease or internal ulcers of any kind should avoid this. Also, people with hyperthyroidism or chronic diarrhea should avoid this.
Excellent for the health of the abdominal organs and the digestive system. Works wonders on a sluggish liver and kidneys. Works well on obesity, diabetes, constipation and asthma. Removes several gastro-intestinal complaints such as excessive gas, hyperacidity, indigestion etc. Massages the abdominal organs. This is an excellent practice to develop control over the sluggish abdominal muscles and diaphragm.
5. UJJAYI PRANAYAMA
Ujjayi technique for beginners:
Sit in a comfortable yoga pose like Padmasana or Sukhasana. Take long, deep breath with both nostrils along with contraction inside the throat, which makes the breath long and thin. The friction of air should be felt inside the throat when it is contracted and a hissing sound of breath is produced itself. Now exhale out very slowly. Repeat this process three times daily.
After some days of practice:
Three more steps are added to complete Ujjayi Pranayama process. After breathing inside with contraction in throat, try to touch your chin to the upper side of chest (Jalandhar Bandha). Hold the breath inside for maximum 10 seconds (Kumbaka).
Now exhale out slowly with left nostril, by closing right nostril with your right hand thumb. Exhale must be done by left nostril only. This is complete process of Ujjayi.
Ujjayi Pranayama Duration
Initially it should be practiced for 3 times. As practice increases, it can be performed maximum 11 times a day. It is another variant is ‘Pratiloma Ujjayi’.
Effects of Ujjayi Pranayama in the body (Scientific Explanation)
Ujjayi stretches the breath, warms it before entering into the lungs and helps to build heat in the body. Through this heat, internal Agni (fire) is stoked and powerful healing process is unlocked.
Ujjayi Pranayama Benefits and Cures
Beginners should exhale with both nostrils. After few days they should start Jalandhar Bandha and Kumbhaka. It should be performed under supervision of experienced yoga teacher.
Ujjayee pranayama should not be done in standing position during any stress or fatigueness. This yoga is not done in empty stomach. Best time is to perform in morning when mind and body are fresh.
6. ANULOM- VILOMA PRANAYAMA
Pranayam comprises a class of breathing exercises, which when practiced as a controlled breathing it brings about balance in body and mind. Therefore, Anulom pranayama is practiced as follows:
Sit in any comfortable balanced meditative pose as the Sukhasana or the Vajrasana. Those who are unable to sit down can sit on a chair and do the breathing exercises. However sitting down in a proper yogic posture is most beneficial.
Left hand is to be kept on the left knee and the right hand on the bridge of the nose and the 4th and the middle fingers on the left side of the nose.
Folding your index and middle fingers. Do not twist your nose; only press it on the bony region to the control breathing.
Now begin to first exhale through left nostril, and then inhale through the same, by closing the right nostril. Then exhale through the right nostril and lastly exhale through the left nostril.
Prana breathed in through left nortril represents energy of the moon, which symbolizes peace, and has the cooling effect. Hence, for purification of Nadis, beginning of this pranayama has to be made by the left nostril. Close the right nostril with the right hand thumb. Inhale slowly with the left nostril till the lungs are filled. Then close the left nostril with second and the third fingers. Open the right nostril and exhale through it. Repeat this exercise slowly in the beginning, and with practice, increase the speed. When you are to practice the exercise for a long time. Inhale with as much force as is possible for you, then exhale also forcefully. This practice of inhalation and exhalation alternatively through the right and left nostril, as indicated above with force, should be done for three minutes. If you feel tired, rest for sometime and resume. Regular practice will enable you to do this pranayama for ten minutes. After some practice being establish, the pranayama should be done for 5 to 10 minutes daily, depending upon ones capacity. However, in summer season, it should be done for duration starting for 3 minutes and upt a maximum of 5 minutes. If you practice this pranayama for 5 minutes regularily on a daily basis, the coiled energy called Kundalini Shakti lying in the Muladhar Chakra begins to awaken. This is known as Kundalini Jagran. While doing this pranayama, mentally the mantra “OM” So the mind becomes fit for the meditation.
Method to close the nostril:
To be done by closing the nostril one after another, close the right nostrilby the right hand thumb, and likewise close the left nostril by 2nd and 3rd fingers (Madayama and Anamika) and keep the palm of the hand in front just above the nose.
Vow at the time of performing Anulom- Viloma Pranayama:
While performing this Pranayama there develops a feeling in the mind that as a result of friction and churning of breath in ida and Pingla Nadis, there is awakening in Susumna Nadi. A divine light is arising upward from the first Chakrs to the eight (Saharar) Chakra.
There is felling that a divine light is enligthening the whole body. Imagine adivine light on thee outside and the inside of the body and tries to visulise OM KHAM BRAHAM. Imagine that a supreme power is showering divine energy and divine knowledge, that supreme power is filling you with divine energy. Try to get the initiation of divine energy by yourself.
A Guru ( Teacher) just inspires you for the divine energy and links the students to the divine feeling. Actually, the divine energy is showered by the supreme power himself. Anulom-Viloma Pranayama done with these kind of divine feelings gives beeter results and benefots to the individuals in all the spheres viz. physically, mentally and spiritually. A divine light will appear from Muladhar Chakra on its own and there will be kundalini Jagran, you will the rise with in yourself.
Regular practice of this Pranayama has the capacity of cleansing all the your innumerable Nadis, which males the body healthy, lustrous and strong.
All kind of diseases occurring due to the disturbance of Vata Dosha like rheumatism, gout, diseases pertaing to urinary and reproductive organs are cured. Besides, regular practce of ths Pranayama also cure diseases like cold, cataract, sinus, etc which have reached a chronic stage. The three Dosha’s like Vata, Pitta and Kapha regularize themselves and assume proper proportion.
· Blockages in arteries of the heart are removed and arteries become clean, making the circulation unimpeded. If this pranayama is practiced for 3 to 4 months regularly, 30 to 40% of blockages in the arteries are dissolved and removed, preventing the phenomenon of heart attack.
Pathogenic cholesterol, triglycerides, H.D.L. AND L.D.L also get controlled, making the arterial channels clear for effective and unimpeded flow of blood in the heart.
Negative thinking is replaced by positive approach to the life. It increases the enthusiasm and spirit, the Sadhak becomes fearless and feels blisfull.
In short, this Pranayama has the effect of cleansing the body, and the mind and cures almost all the diseases from which the Sadhak has been suffering. If this Pranayama is practiced for 250 to 500 times a day, Kundalini Shakti turns its face upward and begins to rise above through the susumna Nadi. It means that the phenomenon known as Kundalini Jagran begins.
Heart, high BP, heart blockage, vat-kaph-pit, arthritis, cartilage, bent ligaments, sinual fluid reduced, Parkinson, paralysis, neural related, depression, migraine pain, asthma, sinus, allergy.Another more benefits of Anulom Vilom are:
Due to increased oxygen intake during this Pranayam exercise, one feels clear headed and calm.
Regular practice helps in relieving stress, cold, mild fevers, eye and ear problems, etc.
This is even found to be in migraine, chronic sinus problems, blockages in the arteries of the heart are removed, and blood circulation is also improved.
It also helps to change the thoughts in your mind from negative to positive.
But it is only the regular practice of this pranayama for at least 10-15 minutes twice a day that provides you with the most of the benefits.
This even provides benefit in obesity, constipation, gastric, acidity, hepatitis B, diabetes, gastric problems, allergic problems, asthma, snoring, concentration, and even cancer and AIDS.
This even benefits in cardiovascular disorders, high BP, heart blockage, arthritis, for the stretching of cartilage, ligaments, Parkinson, paralysis, migraine pain, depression, asthma, allergy, and sinus.
Regular practice of this Pranayam has the capacity of cleansing all your innumerable Nadis, which makes the body healthy lustrous and strong.
This is also very beneficial in most of the diseases occurring due to the disturbance of ‘Vata Dosha’ like rheumatism, gout, diseases pertaining to urinary and reproductive organs are cured.
Precautionary measures that are to be followed in Anulom Vilom Pranayam are:
While performing this asana you must be in a relaxed posture and should not stress out.
7. BHRAMARI PRANAYAMA.
As name suggests, a soft humming sound with that of a Beetle (a large black Bumble Bee) is made while exhaling. Spiritually it is the internal repetition of ‘AUM’, the manifested name of God.
1. Sit in any Comfortable Asana (Padmasana, Ardha Padmasana and Vajrasana etc.
2. Firmly plug the ears by inserting both the thumb tips into ear holes with little pressure.
3. Keep Index fingers on forehead above eyebrows, Middle two fingers on gently closed eyes, and the Little finger near nostril’s sides. (This posture is known as Sanmukhi Mudra).
4. Fill the air in lungs to brim and while exhaling slowly through both nostrils, make a humming sound like a Beatle.
5. The sound should be prolonged, loud, clear, of high pitch and harmonious through out.
6. The reverberant vibrations or the echo of sound should be felt at the top of head (Front Nellie, the newborn infants’ mild part of head), Shasrar Chakra. Perform five to seven rounds of Bhramari Gunjan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and relax in Gyana Mudra.
7. Meditate (on sensations, Samvedana Dhyana) upon the vibrations or echo of the Bhramari Gunjanprevailing in the entire head.
8. Feel that all parts of brain are getting calmed. The hypothalamus, Pituitary and pineal gland are relaxed and calmed.
9. All the thoughts, urges and ego are exiting. All anguishes of dualities of Raga (delusion), Dwesha (Aversions) are diminishing.
10. Feel that you are peace, peace and only peace. Now focus your entire awareness on forehead for some time, then on the sides of eyes (Temples) and feel the vibrations and warmness of Bhramari there also, till the waves of echo, vibrations fade away.
11. Meditate on the peace pervading within you and the surroundings encircling you. Watch the happenings around you, the twittering of birds, sounds of traffic and people and so forth, with witness full awareness.
12. Don’t evaluate the things happening around you – not good, not bad – nothing of that sort. Just watch them independently as they are, without getting involved in them. (This is Sakshi Dhyana).
13. Rub your Palms together and keeping them overhead, warm them with little pressure and high speed. Put the warmed up palms on closed eyes, keep them there for a while, feel the warmness and then gently massage forehead, complete face, throat and neck. With flicker of the eye lids and looking downwards.
14. Gently open your eyes with full self-confidence and perfect bliss. Relax and straighten your legs full length, move them left and right, from hip joints to heels and toes.
Benefits of Bhramari Pranayama
Practice of Bhramari Pranayama induces tranquility and sleep, therefore good for persons suffering from Insomnia. Also benefits to hard hearing persons, enhances concentrations level.
8. UDGEETH PRANAYAMA
Udgeeth Pranayam is also very beneficial when practiced and it is also one of the simplest of pranayama in the yogic practices. Therefore, this pranayama can be practiced as follows;
The benefits of this pranayama are:
THE FINAL - Shava Asana
Shava asana - The final: Relax in the shava asana completely silent Just for 10 minutes. This complete relaxation is very necessary part. It controls the whole mind, get rid of anger, ego, fear and jealousy. It develops the friendliness with the self and the nature.
Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
Shavasana (sometimes written as Savasana) is perhaps the most important part of a yoga practice. It serves many purposes: physical, spiritual and philosophical.
Organizing the Pose
It is not sufficient to simply plop oneself down in corpse pose. The alignment and positioning of the pose is as important as for any active asana. The body must be organized in such a way as to affect the nervous system and mind at deeper and deeper levels. It becomes important, then, to create a sense of balance and symmetry in the gross body, so that the subtle neurological energies can flow unhindered.
The following sequence is presented for the classic pose, but can be modified to fit any of the above variations.
1. Sit on your mat with the feet flat on the floor and hold on to the knees. Take a moment to make sure you are squared off with the mat and with the room. This will be important when you lie down, as you will be taking subconscious cues from the space around you as to your position.
2. Keeping the core muscles soft and, using only the strength of the arms, roll your spine down towards the floor. Take care to place each segment of the back evenly down on the floor before proceeding to the next.
3. Lie back with your head on the blanket and draw it down to graze the tops of your shoulders and support the back of the neck. Take a moment in this position to assess your alignment. Is the pelvis level and the lower back long? If not, place the hands on the buttocks and both lengthen and broaden them as you roll the flesh towards the heels.
4. Slide out one heel at a time to extend the legs. Begin with the legs together and then let them drop out to the sides. Take the feet a comfortable distance apart, but be sure not to overdo it. Wider is not necessarily better.
5. Pick the head up and glance down the length of the body. If the legs are not arranged symmetrically, adjust them so that they are.
6. Press the elbows firmly down into the floor and pick the upper back up off the blanket. Tuck the shoulder blades in and roll the shoulders down, opening the top chest.
7. Keep the elbows where they are and release the forearms down with the palms facing up.
8. Mentally scan the body and see if any other minor adjustments are necessary. After adjusting the shoulders, you may find it necessary to re-adjust the lower back. This may, in turn, shift the shoulders a little. Sometimes it is necessary to go back and forth a few times to get it right. DO NOT GET CARRIED AWAY WITH YOUR ADJUSTMENTS. It is possible to go on forever adjusting around attempting to achieve the perfect position. Deal with the major issues and then make a firm resolution not to change anything else for the remainder of the time.
9. Glance up and adjust the forehead so that it is level with the ceiling. The back of the head is an unreliable reference point, as it is unlikely to be completely symmetrical.
10. Gently allow the chin to release into the chest and the back of the neck to lengthen. You want there to be a gentle downward incline from the eyebrows to the top of the chest.
11. Release the eyelids from top to bottom and begin the process of turning your awareness inwards. Hold the pose for anything from 3 to 30 minutes.
After the exertions of the practice, Shavasana allows the body a chance to regroup and reset itself. After a balanced practice, the entire body will have been stretched, contracted, twisted and inverted. These means that even the deepest muscles will have the opportunity to let go and shed their regular habits, if only for a few minutes.
Furthermore, the physiological benefits of deep relaxation are numerous and include:
• a decrease in heart rate and the rate of respiration.
• a decrease in blood pressure.
• a decrease in muscle tension.
• a decrease in metabolic rate and the consumption of oxygen.
• a reduction in general anxiety.
• a reduction in the number and frequency of panic attacks.
• an increase in energy levels and in general productivity.
• an improvement in concentration and in memory.
• an increase in focus.
• a decrease in fatigue, coupled with deeper and sounder sleep.
• improved self-confidence.
An intelligent yoga practice will furnish the nervous system with a host of new neuromuscular information. Shavasana gives the nervous system a chance to integrate that in what can be thought of as a brief pause before it is forced once again to deal with all the usual stresses of daily life.
After so much time being bound to the actions of the body, the practitioner's awareness is hopefully turned inwards and purified of sensory distraction. Shavasana then becomes the beginning of deeper, meditative yogic practices. In state of sensory withdrawal it becomes easier to be aware of the breath and of the state of the mind itself. Though not the best position for prolonged meditative contemplation – the reclined position dulls the mind too much for the kind of discernment necessary to achieve deeper meditative states, this can be a successful introductory practice for those not yet ready for formal meditation.
The yoga practice is a form of ritual. Regardless of the style of yoga, most classes follow the same pattern (2). It begins with a short opening period where the practitioner gathers him or herself up, turning inwards, away from the mundane world and setting an intention for the practice. Following that comes the practice itself. And to end there comes an integration phase where the effects of the practice are allowed to take hold and penetrate deep into the self of the practitioner. Shavasana is the primary vehicle of that process.
There are many different ways to practice interiorization in Shavasana. Here are four approaches, each of which deals with successively more subtle points of focus: the body, the senses, the breath and the mind itself. Any one of these practiced alone would be sufficient, or you may combine two or more for longer holdings.
Starting with the feet and working your way to the head, use suggestion to soften and release the different parts of the body.
Eventually, you learn how to voluntarily initiate relaxation, but initially it may take the use of guided imagery to encourage the muscles to relax. Here are some suggestions:
• silently name each body part and imagine the breath flowing directly into that body part. Think of the body part as being darker or in shadow and imagine that the breath brings light into the muscles.
• Alternatively, you can think of the breath as dissolving the tension like sugar dissolving in water. With each exhalation, the tension flows out of the body.
• After naming the body part, imagine it getting heavier and heavier with each exhalation and sinking into the floor.
• After naming the body part, imagine it melting as if it were snow melting in the winter sun.
• Imagine the body were a sack of grain. For each body part, visualize rips forming in the sack and the grain pouring out onto the floor.
• Imagine the body as a suit of clothes falling through the air in slow motion and touching the ground, body part by body part. As each part touches the floor, all the wrinkles fall out of the fabric.
Sensory withdrawal begins with relaxation of the physical sense organs. This softens their attachment to the outside world, preparing them to turn inwards. Sometimes this can be a bit nebulous for the inexperienced practitioner to grasps. Releasing specific parts of the face can assist in the release of the nearby sense organs.
The sense of touch resides in the skin. While softening the muscles of the body, pay special attention to the skin, allowing it to soften and release as well. This has the added benefit of calming the nervous system directly, as there is a connection between the skin cells and the nerves: nerves, skin and brain all emerge from the same embryonic cells in the womb.
The senses of taste and smell can be released by addressing the mouth and nose:
• Soften the tip of the tongue and allow it to detach itself from the roof of the mouth.
• Release the tongue from the tip to the root, near the back of the throat.
• Release the roof of the mouth and the back of the throat.
• Soften upwards from there behind the nose and into the nostrils.
• Soften the bridge of the nose and the sinuses.
The sense of hearing can be released by softening the jaw and the ear canal:
• Soften the chin and the jaw.
• Soften the hinges of the jaw.
• Soften the ear canal in and forward towards the eyes.
• Soften the inner ear.
The sense of sight can be released by softening the temples, the muscles around the eyes and the eyeballs themselves:
• Soften the temples. Allow them to deflate and sink inwards.
• Soften the eyebrows, the cheek bones and the bridge of the nose.
• Soften the muscles around the eyes.
• Soften the eyeballs and allow them to sink down past the temples.
• Soften the backs of the eyes and the optic nerve. moving back into the skull.
According to yogic philosophy, there is one more sense, the mind. The mind, as opposed to consciousness or thoughts, is the part of you that organizes all the senses and mediates between consciousness and the outside world. To release the mind, we have to address the brain directly:
• Soften the skull.
• Soften the brain itself.
• Allow the brain to detach itself from behind the forehead and let it sink down to rest on the back of the skull.
• Allow the front of the brain to settle on the back of the brain.
• Soften the individual brain cells and allow them to deflate and sink towards the floor.
With the body relaxed and the senses turned inwards, it is now possible to become aware of the inner spaces of the body and the movement of the breath. There are two ways to think of the breath, either as the mechanism of breathing or as the flow of breath.
In the first, we can observe either the movement of the ribcage and belly or the passage of air through the nostrils. Let us look at the ribcage first:
• Bring the awareness into the inhalations and exhalations.
• Observe what moves as you inhale, what moves as you exhale.
• Observe the expansion of the ribcage as you inhale.
• Observe the release of the belly as you exhale.
• Observe the spreading of the diaphragm as you inhale.
• Observe the release and resetting of the diaphragm as you exhale.
• Allow each inhalation to emerge seamlessly out of exhalation that precedes it.
• Allow each cycle of breath to flow seamlessly into the cycle that follows it.
Even though the reclined position is not the ideal posture of meditation, it is still possible to practice a detached attitude towards the thoughts that fill the mind:
• Observe each individual thought as it arises.
• Do not categorize the thoughts. Simple acknowledge them for what they are. Think of them as words or images projected on a screen.
• As the mind wanders, gently acknowledge that it has done so and bring your awareness back to the thoughts flowing across the mind.
• As the mind becomes engaged in the thoughts, gently acknowledge that this has happened, release the thought and allow it to proceed on its way.
• As the mind begins to calm itself, you may find that the thoughts become a little less frequent a little less insistent. Start to become aware of the moments of silence between each thought.
The Effort Of Effortlessness
Shavasana is a very demanding pose to practice. It has the potential to take us right up to the very limits of conscious awareness. It is as easy to think it unnecessary and to avoid it as it is to allow it to become nothing more than a nap. It demands of us both diligence and finesse. Too long in the pose and the mind may become dull and even lose consciousness. Too little time, or time spent wrestling with our thoughts, and the pose is almost useless. And yet, the benefits are many and profound. I urge you to give the pose the attention it deserves. Experiment with the different set-ups and become familiar with their effects. You will find different variations appropriate for different practices, different times and different states of mind. Experiment, too, with the different methods of turning inward to find what works for you so that you may reap the benefits of this wonderful pose.