The Art of Relaxation

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Life has become complex these days. The struggle for existence is acute and keen. There is unhealthy competition in every walk of life. Food is very scarce. There is unemployment everywhere. Only those who are brilliant and have extraordinary ability get a job. Therefore, a great deal of continuous mental and physical strain is imposed on modern humanity by its deadening daily work and unhealthy mode of life.

Being relaxed is not being lazy

Action produces movements and these in turn cause habits. Man has acquired many artificial habits. He has violated the laws of Nature. He has brought tension to many of the muscles and nerves through incorrect posture. He has forgotten the first principles of relaxation. He will have to learn lessons from the cat, the dog and the infant about the science of relaxation.

If you practise relaxation regularly, no energy will be wasted. You will be active and energetic. During relaxation, the muscles and nerves are at rest. The prana or energy is stored up and conserved. The vast majority have no adequate understanding of this grand science of relaxation. They simply waste their energy by creating unnecessary movements and putting the muscles and nerves under great strain.

Some persons shake their legs unnecessarily while sitting. Some strum their fingers on the table while their minds are idle or vacant. Some whistle. Some shake their heads. Some tap their chests or abdomen with their fingers. Energy is thus dissipated through all these unnecessary movements, on account of lack of knowledge of the elementary principles of the science of relaxation.

Do not mistake laziness for relaxation. A lazy man is inactive. He has no inclination to work. He is full of lethargy and inertia. He is dull, but the man who practises relaxation takes rest only. He has vigour, strength, vitality and endurance. He never allows even a small amount of energy to trickle away. He accomplishes a great deal of work gracefully in a minimum amount of time.

Mental relaxation

Just as you relax your muscles after having practised your asanas and physical exercises, so also you will have to relax the mind after concentration and meditation, and after the practice of memory training and will-culture. Relaxation of the muscles brings repose to the body, and relaxation of the mind brings repose to the body. The body and mind are intimately linked. The body is a mould prepared by the mind for its enjoyment.

The mind gathers experiences through the body and works in conjunction with the prana, senses and body. The mind has influence over the body. If you are cheerful, the body will also be healthy and strong. When you feel depressed, the body cannot work. Conversely, the body has some influence over the mind. If the body is healthy and strong, the mind also will be happy, cheerful and strong. If there is a little stomach ache, the mind cannot work well. Thought manifests as action, and action reacts on the mind. The mind acts on the body and the body reacts on the mind. Removal of tension in the muscles brings repose and calmness to the mind.

By relaxing you give rest to the mind, to the tired nerves and the overworked muscles. You get immense peace of mind, strength and vigour. When you practise relaxation of either the body or the mind, the brain should not be occupied with various kinds of irrelevant, extraneous thoughts. Anger, envy, disappointment, failure, indisposition, misery, sorrow and quarrels cause internal mental strain. The practice of relaxing the mind will remove this internal mental strain and fill the mind with new mental energy. It will make you cheerful and happy.

How to do it?

Mental poise and calmness may be brought about by eradication of worry and anger. In truth, fear really underlies both worry and anger. Nothing is gained by worry and anger; on the contrary, much energy is wasted by these two lower emotions. Be careful and thoughtful. All unnecessary concern should be avoided. Expel fear, worry and anger. Think of courage, joy, bliss, peace and cheerfulness. Sit for fifteen minutes in a relaxed state in an easy, comfortable position. You can sit in an easy chair. Close your eyes. Withdraw the mind from all outer objects. Still the mind and silence the bubbling thoughts.

Here is another way to relax the mind. Close the eyes. Think of anything that is pleasant. This will relax the mind in a wonderful manner. Think of the mighty Himalayas, the sacred river Ganges, any impressive scenery in Kashmir, the Taj Mahal, the Victoria Memorial in Calcutta, a lovely sunset, the vast expanse of ocean, the infinite blue sky. Imagine that the whole world and your body are floating like a straw in this vast ocean of Spirit. Feel that you are in touch with the Supreme Being. Feel that the life of the whole world is pulsating, vibrating and throbbing through you. Feel that Lord Hiranyagarbha, the ocean of life, is gently rocking you on His vast bosom. Then open your eyes. You will experience great mental peace, mental vigour and mental strength. Practise and feel this power within.

During your daily activity, stop your work for a few minutes and think of the peace of God. Feel His peace and serenity all around you, and that it fills your entire being from head to foot. May peace and bliss ever fill your being!