By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Within Yoga are many techniques, which have taken off on their own. The entire field of Yogic relaxation is just one example. Sometimes, a generic name such as: Progressive relaxation, relaxation techniques, or stress management, is more acceptable than attaching the word “Yoga” to the front of the phrase.
The point being: Depending upon where you live, Yoga and Yogic techniques may be welcomed, but what if you live in an area where the population considers Yoga to be a religious threat? If you are a Yoga teacher and you live in an open minded neighborhood, thank your luck stars, because you do not have to convince your community about the value of Yogic techniques.
Perhaps your Yoga teacher training did not prepare you for trying to reason with people who resist logic. We live in a world where some people are extremely easy to work with, while others have a personal agenda, which overrides the importance of anything else. If it was easy to reason with everyone, politics would be a “cake walk.”
According to a 2010 survey by the American Psychological Association, people in the United States are not only worried about the economy; they are also worried about the effect it has on their families’ physical and mental health. They are aware of the dangers, but they have trouble finding time to make healthy lifestyle changes. Although a little stress can improve performance and motivate, prolonged or excessive stress affects all of the body’s systems and actually rewires the brain, making it more susceptible to depression and anxiety.
What is progression relaxation?
One of the most effective and accessible ways to combat tension in the body is progressive muscle relaxation – a technique used to relax the body’s muscles, one group at a time. This approach is based on the assumption that stress has a physical effect on the body, causing tight muscles and shallow breathing. Releasing the physical tension in the body also relaxes emotional tension and frees blocked energy.
Although, seasoned Yoga teachers and practitioners are familiar with this technique, progressive relaxation is used in clinical and alternative treatments and may be considered a part of physical therapy, Yoga, or meditation. Once learned, it can easily be used at almost any place and time to calm the neuromuscular system and stop the surge of cortisol into the body. The process, however, is usually combined with other methods for even greater results.
How does it work?
According to basic physiology, a muscle that is tightened – if allowed to rest afterward – will return to an even more relaxed state when released. Progressive relaxation isolates and tightens one muscle group at a time for a period of 8-10 seconds and then releases it. The process continues from the feet to the head until all the muscles in the body are relaxed. Since relaxed muscles require less oxygen, breathing deepens and slows down. The heart beats more slowly, blood pressure drops, and blood circulates throughout the organs and limbs. As the voluntary muscles calm down, moodiness subsides and energy increases.
What are the steps in muscle relaxation?
• Be aware of the tension in the body.
• Single out a muscle group and tighten.
• Progress through body from toes to scalp.
• Notice how it feels to relax.
With practice, muscles learn to relax more quickly, and psychological responses occur more easily. Guided relaxations, meditations, and scripts may be used to ease the process, or progressive relaxation may be used to increase the effectiveness of other kinds of Yoga, meditation, or exercise.
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