These few words are always greeted with smiles and sighs of contentment in my yoga classes. It is your time to get comfortable on your mat and to relax, but have you ever wondered why this relaxation period feels so good?
When we lie down on our mats, our body finally gets to properly relax. As we move throughout our day and during our yoga practice, gravity is always bearing on us. We are not aware of this, but it is having an effect on the postural muscles and the heart, as they need to work against it to keep us upright and to keep the blood flowing.
When we come into the relaxation pose on our mat, our whole body is on one plane. Our muscles and organs don’t have to work as much. The heart doesn’t need to pump in the same way and our core muscles don’t need to keep us up anymore. At this stage, this automatic relaxation response is reinforced by the action of tensing and relaxing the muscles, which helps to release any physical tension still held in the body.
As the body settles deeper in the relaxation, the muscles around the ribcage and the abdomen relax more and enable a deeper, slower breath, which will in turn allow your mind to slow down and relax. Watching the breath and following the flow of relaxation into the body by systematically focusing on each part of the body takes you further into this journey of relaxation by removing the effects of stress and emotional pain from the emotional and mental levels.
By this point, your body and mind have reached a state of inner stillness that is incredibly beneficial for you. It is a time when your body can fully recuperate and nourish itself.
Relaxation takes your brain into slow brain waves (alpha waves), which are not usually accessed during sleep. These brain waves have many benefits, which include relaxing your body and mind, enhancing problem solving and increase your ability to think positively. It has also a positive impact on your immune system. No wonder we feel so good after the relaxation!
So next time, you’ll know that – not only are you getting a rest and even maybe a little nap – but the relaxation is also deeply beneficial for your body and your mind.