Simple Yogic Practices For Relaxation

Swami Amritananda Saraswati

The primary purpose of yoga is to teach the individual how to relax and achieve tranquillity. Everyone wants peace and quiet, but how can we avoid noise? Just try to go within yourself for a moment and you will find that even if you plug your ears, the noise still leaks in.

Breath awareness

The yogic way to achieve inner peace is to watch the breathing process in the body, to become aware of each incoming and outgoing breath. You don't have to make an effort to breathe; the process goes on automatically all the time. This breath awareness relaxes the nerves and spontaneously internalizes the mind. It relaxes not only the abdominal, back and leg muscles, but also the most important areas of the brain which control the whole physical body, the emotions and the intellect. When you experience this relaxation, the strain of the day's work falls away, and you feel as refreshed as if you'd just had several hours of sleep. But even the relaxation of sleep cannot be compared with this state, because yogic relaxation brings emotional tranquillity. as well.

Many times you feel exhausted at the end of a busy day, and when you want to play with your children or talk with your wife or husband, you just can't. This makes you feel frustrated and irritated, causing even more physical and emotional tension. In order to avoid this, you can practise simple breathing awareness before coming home from work, or before the family comes home for dinner. Just sit down quietly with your eyes open or closed and withdraw your awareness from the external world. Become aware of the breath flowing in and out. With every inhalation feel the navel region expanding; with every exhalation feel the navel area contracting. Try to synchronize the incoming and outgoing breath with the rising and falling of the navel.

This breathing practice will minimize your physical fatigue and maximize your emotional stability. Your irritation will automatically decrease and you won't become angry with your loved ones. You will be able to speak with your children, wife or husband in a pleasant manner and you will be happier with yourself as a person. Keep practising this every day and, in the course of time, you will feel a tremendous increase of energy, both physically and emotionally. Anybody can perform this simple yogic technique without seeking further guidance or advice.

Neti kriya

Another technique which you can do every day or once a week is neti kriya. This practice also relaxes the brain and brings tranquillity. For this, you need a special neti lota, or pot, filled with warm saline water. Place the nozzle of the lota in the right nostril, then tilt the head to the left side and breathe through the open mouth. The water flows out the left nostril without any effort or disturbance, as if it were coming through a straight pipe. Afterwards, you clean the nose by exhaling forcefully with bhastrika pranayama to remove any excess water.

Neti kriya stimulates and massages the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which are known in yogic terminology as ida and pingala nadis. Ida and pingala control the cooling and heating aspects in the body, acting like an internal thermostat. This thermostat regulates the temperature and energy levels in the nervous system. When the energy is not being channelized properly, either there is too much energy or too little, and then illness develops. Constipation, diabetes, hypertension, cancer and so many other diseases may occur. Neti kriya helps to maintain good health by balancing these two aspects of ida and pingala in our physical body.

These two nadis are also directly connected to the brain and affect the way we think, experience and feel. They influence the emotions which cause worry and excitement and are at the root of most of our problems. So when you directly relax the two nervous systems, in the course of time you are able to transform yourself mentally as well as physically.

The ancient rishis and munis knew this secret, and today, scientists are discovering the same thing: neti kriya is the best way of removing all of the problems caused by phobia. Do you know what a phobia is? It is a wrong and false imagination about your health, family, work, etc. A phobia is something which you imagine exists. Phobias are created and expressed differently in different situations, for example, as lack of confidence, doubt or false thinking about others. This is the whole cause of everyone's suffering - not just Hindus, Russians, Muslims or Christians, but all of humanity. It is the cause of our physical, emotional and intellectual sickness.

Simple yogic practices such as these can be used to restore normal health and harmony. However, we must remember that yoga is far more than this. It is a vast science which can raise the consciousness and lead you to spiritual enlightenment.