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Conscious Relaxation


Conscious Relaxation is an essential, healing, beneficial, and life sustaining practice. Its simplicity does not adequately impart its immense healing power. This awareness comes only through the practice.


Conscious Relaxation is the foundation of all yoga practices. The Yoga Sutras impart that “Yoga is the cessation of the modifications of the mind.” (1.2), which means complete calmness of mind, resulting in an experience of truth, wholeness and light.


Body and mind are inseparable. Relaxing our bodies deeply allows us to become still enough to witness all the activity in our minds, which includes all forms of thinking, feeling, memories, perception, habits and belief systems, in the conscious, unconscious and expanded conscious mind. Conscious Relaxation offers us an invaluable tool to connect with ourselves, bringing both the unconscious and higher consciousness into conscious awareness. We can touch the stillness, and become quiet enough in our body/mind to connect with how we really are, to discover what is driving us from deeper levels, and to guide ourselves from the higher consciousness on how best to deal with it all. It is a pathway to healing, a word which means “returning to wholeness”.


There are immediate, tangible, physical benefits that even a short 20-minute period of Conscious Relaxation will provide, positively affecting all our body systems. Our nervous system activity will slow down, shifting from activation of the sympathetic response (stress: “flight or fight, flee or freeze”) to the parasympathetic response (healing, resting, restoring, rebuilding and rebalancing). Our heart rate decreases, blood pressure lowers, respiration slows and deepens, cellular exchange and digestion become more efficient, mind waves calm down, vital organs are repaired, hormonal imbalances are corrected, muscle tension and pain decreases, and the list of benefits goes on and on… With regular practice, that parasympathetic response will become toned over time. Our body/mind gets used to becoming calm and relaxed, and goes there more easily. This gives us access to a calmer, more settled and more regulated state in our day to day lives, even in challenging moments.

And, as we connect with our physical tension, moving through it with an open and curious mind, we may find that it is intimately connected with held emotions, some recently embedded, and some held for a lifetime in the underground of our being. As we soften our tension and holding, the emotion held within can begin to express, to be seen and understood, and even the mental structures and thought patterns that reinforce our emotional wounds can be seen with more clarity and managed from a deep place of wisdom and knowing, rather than from reactivity in the moments we are triggered.


In this moment of connection, we are stabilized not by becoming perfect or challenge-free. In fact, life challenges are what help us find our true power, if we allow it and are open to it. We are stabilized by our own self-connection and understanding. This is a point of power preceding major shifts in our lives.


As we surrender, in an authentic and feeling way, to our emerging light and power, as we open to and address our pain, our sorrow and fear, its grip on us lets go, and even deeply imprinted patterns can be healed.


In essence, Conscious Relaxation is a deep PAUSE in presence. A time to be with ourselves, listen to and direct ourselves, from a deep and wise place of awareness. A time to allow Love, the primary energy of Life itself, to arise as the primary energy within us, centering us, calming us, healing us, and empowering us once again.


HOW TO PRACTICE CONSCIOUS RELAXATION


Please choose a time in your day where you can be uninterrupted for a minimum of 20 minutes. If you have only so much time, set a gentle alarm so that you can completely surrender to your practice time without worry.


CREATE YOUR SPACE AND TIME

Find your space to practice. Choose a place of solitude, comfort and safety. Have your blanket, yoga band, head support, and bolsters nearby. Nurture yourself with aromatherapy and beautiful music, if you desire. Use the same space each time you practice, if possible.

Allow a minimum of 20 minutes for your Conscious Relaxation practice. If you have more time, allow your relaxation practice to extend, and move into other practices until you feel complete. Choose a time to practice that works in your life. A mid day time, or right after work, will interrupt accumulating stress, and reset your systems for the latter part of the day.


FIND YOUR BEST RELAXATION POSITION

Rest your body into Savasana (lying down on your back position) or a personally suitable variation of it, which may include bolsters under your knees and a folded blanket support under your head.


Or, into a variation of “Legs up the wall’ which I call “Legs on the couch”, where your legs are elevated onto the couch, but bent gently at hips and knees. This decreases pull or strain on your low back, pelvis and hips.


You can also practice in Constructive Rest position with legs bent and feet on the floor (I call this “Rest and Relax Pose”).


Sitting meditation positions are also suitable.

It is very important to feel throughout your body so that you can find a most comfortable position. You are free to change your position at any time throughout your practice time, to move to be more comfortable. But, generally, stillness is optimal.

Cover yourself with a blanket to keep you warm and provide a cozy feeling of comfort and containment.


USE MENTAL SUPPORT AS NEEDED

If you are too exhausted or scattered to guide yourself, you can put on beautiful music. Play it loud enough to hold your attention on it. Allow the vibration of the beautiful music not only to fill your ears, but to flow through your body tissue, helping it to let go, soften and relax. Let the music help your breath to flow through your body. Let the music soothe you and uplift you.

Or, use a recorded guided relaxation that resonates with you (though this may be less personally affecting, especially over time, and so I encourage you to guide yourself when you can).


It is important to continue to connect with your body, in a feeling way, throughout.


MOVING INTO AND DEEPENING YOUR RELAXATION

In your chosen resting position, take an enormous breath, hold your breath, feeling the pressure and tension in your body, and finally, exhale with sound. Do this three or four times, allowing your body to melt away tension, and melt into the ground, with each sighing exhalation.


Feel the ground below your body. Feel the pull of gravity coming from the center of the Earth moving through your body. Welcome gravity as a supportive force. Even if you completely let go, you will not fall. The Earth holds you. Experience this truth. Breathe, and with each out-breath, let go. Trust in the support of the Earth. Release your full weight into the Earth, breath by breath.


Now, feel your feet. Inhale, feel your feet. Exhale, soften them. Do this again and again. Appreciate your feet, recognize their importance. Flow your love and appreciation to your feet. Soften and relax them. Let them feel heavy, releasing into the support of the ground.

Then, move your attention to your legs. Inhale, feel your legs. Exhale, soften them into the support of the ground. Soften the joints and muscles. Feel the weight of the bones. Appreciate your legs and all they do for you. Feel the life within them. Guide them to deeply let go, to rest and be restored. Send love. Then, move your attention to your hips and pelvis…

Continue in this way, moving upward through your entire body, through your belly, spine, abdomen, chest and upper back, shoulders, arms and hands, finishing with your head, eyes, face, ears, jaw.


Feel through each area lovingly, inviting each part to release tension, let go of its weight fully, and receive attention and love. Feel the waves of breath movement in each place. Allow your breath to do what it needs to do. Sometimes, we sigh deeply, yawn, tremble, sometimes we need to make vocal sounds to help our body release and let go. We may feel many emotions. We may cry. Let yourself.


Feel your entire left side. Let it all go into deep relaxation. Then, feel your entire right side, and do the same. Feel your whole back body. Let it melt into the ground with each exhalation, becoming one with the ground. Feel the front of your body rising and falling away from the back of your body. Feel the deep center of your body. Soften the space there. Soften and open; go with the flow of life within your very core; allow it to move freely. Let the weight of your body sink into the earth. Rest. Feel the flow of life within every part of you.

Finally, feel your entire body at once. Feel the waves of your natural breath moving through your body. Dismantle any subtle blocking, resistance or interruption to this flow of breath and life through your body, by softening, by surrendering your body weight to the ground. Allow yourself to become present, vulnerable, undefended. Drop more and more into a deeper softness and relaxation. Pay attention. Trust your intuition.


PROCESSING

You will likely find some areas of resistance, congestion, blockage, closure, fear - tension. They may be very subtle. Moving into a deeply relaxed state is a process. Some areas of our bodies may let go easily. Other areas, that are carrying more stress and habitual patterning, can take more time to let go. This process, of bringing these resistant areas to a deeper relaxation state, is KEY! Relaxation is a process.


Working through this process in a very authentic way results in deep personal growth and healing. As we let go of these deeper, subtler levels of tension, by moving into them and softening, we are informed. Through softening into our vulnerability and pain, through our brave inquiry within, we feel and see the deeper drivers of our tension and stress. We get in touch with our emotional selves. We are able to see what brought this tension in and why it is still there. And, we are in an empowered place, to do what we need to do to release ourselves from it, learning throughout the process, so that we do not return to the patterns that reinforce it, but instead build and strengthen new patterns based on compassion, truth, forgiveness and love.


So, in processing what you discover within, remember the important foundational yoga principles of ahimsa (lovingkindness) and asteya (truthfulness). Let them guide your healing process.


When you experience an emotional release, allow yourself to express the emotion in a non-harming way: cry, wail, make sounds and movements that help to move the emotional energy through you. Run, dance, move through it, breathe through it. Follow your healing through. Underneath ALL disruption is the need for love. That is the base of all pain and dysfunction. Give yourself love with every approach, every technique, every thought, every breath.


PRACTICES TO MOVE INTO FROM CONSCIOUS RELAXATION, TO HELP YOU PROCESS AND HEAL

As we go deeper into ourselves this way, we can then move into pro-active practices to help ourselves heal. This can be toning and chanting, breath practices, meditation, samadhi, asana, as well as consciously choosing our words and actions when relating to ourselves and others, in our day to day lives, off the mat.


Toning and Chanting

Making sound is a powerful tool for healing. Toning is allowing your own sound to flow through your body tissue, helping you connect with your body, and release tension and stress. Toning can be any sound at all; it does not matter how it sounds on the outside, but how it feels on the inside. The important factor is that the sound touch you deeply on the inside. The sound vibration creates a pathway for compacted, “caught” energy to flow. Toning is an important practice, especially for emotional release. There are several chanting practices that can be learned from your yoga teacher, which will assist you in strengthening your energetic flow, opening your conscious awareness, and bringing balance to your whole being.


Breath Practices

Conscious breathing is key and is woven through everything. To be conscious of your breath is to feel it, to be present with yourself. We feel our breath coming into and out of our body, and we also feel how our body breathes the breath. When we do breath techniques, conscious breathing is always with us. This anchors us in a meditative awareness.

Please also learn about Pranayama techniques from a well trained and experienced teacher. Pranayama practices such as kapalbhati breath (opening, cleansing, clearing, oxygenating, empowering), alternate nostril breath (deepening, opening, profoundly balancing), ujjayi breathing (focussing, deepening, rhythmic), belly breathing (grounding, connecting into the emotions and the unconscious, brings greater presence in ones body), middle breathing (integrating and connecting, stretching and toning the diaphragm, releasing the bind of anxiety and fear), upper breathing (uplifting, awakening, reigniting one’s joy), back breathing (deeply opening, creating and sustaining presence, strength and empowerment), and subtle breathing (experiencing the subtler levels of our being through the intricate, detailed awareness of breath within the lungs, and vital energy in the body) can all be worked with, to open your breath fully, and to induce deep relaxation and strong energy. Learn and practice them with the guidance of your teacher, then use them in your own way, with your own judgment and discretion. With these different techniques, you can work through the process of opening your personal areas of tension and restriction. This leads to the “full breath” or “yoga breath”, and will positively affect your day-to-day natural breathing. *Always avoid burning in the lungs, straining or discomfort when practicing breathing techniques.


Meditation

Meditation is mediating all the “stuff” in our minds through a heightened, focussed, non-attached, non-judgmental conscious awareness. The “busy mind” quiets as we observe its activity from a deeper place (the “witness”). Meditation requires sufficient energy to sustain the higher level of awareness, and thus it is very helpful to practice asana (yoga positions) and pranayama (breathing practices) before meditation.


Make your meditation personal. Observe your reactivity and guide yourself (through your meditative technique) to a life affirming state of mind, body and feelings, which aligns with your core essence. You will gently guide your healing. Meditation practice will eventually show you all your weaknesses. As you stay with yourself and with your practice, you come, through self-understanding, to accept, forgive, and love yourself, and to guide your life from a deeper place within. You will also see the truth of your beauty, power, wisdom and depth!


Samadhi

Samadhi is a powerful extension of deep meditation, wherein we experience embodiment of truth, peace, love and deep joy. It is a state of wholeness, where we merge with the most subtle aspect of our being, our spiritual existence. Samadhi is a profoundly healing state for all levels of our being. Learn about samadhi from an experienced teacher. Work with it in a most personal way.


Asana

Your asana practice must be suitable for YOU. It is not important if you are “achieving” a certain shape or goal. Asana should not only stretch and strengthen, but most importantly, ease tension in your body, free your movement, open your breath, and deeply connect you with yourself, inside and out. Allow your asana practice to change and flow with the many different stages of your life. Choose your asana by feeling what your body needs. Trust your intuition. Trust your body.


TAKING IT INTO LIFE OFF THE MAT

Whenever you remember, try to soften and relax your body during the day. Sitting down for work, take a deep breath and relax your eyes and jaw. Feel your feet on the floor, your sit bones on the chair. Soften within your belly, solar plexus, chest and shoulders. Check in with how you are feeling, with what you may need in that moment. When you awake in the morning, feel your relaxed body. When you go to sleep at night, feel the comfort your bed brings you, and melt into it. When waiting in a line, relax into the support of gravity, allowing your body weight to move with ease through your bones into the earth. Try to create a habit of loving self-talk, support and en-courage-ment.


In cases of past trauma, it may also be very important to work with cognitive processing and integration of what is arising for healing from inside you, with the support of a therapist, or through journaling or talking with trusted advisors. Support yourself in every way you can. Eat well, rest, nurture yourself with things of beauty and comfort, spend time with people who make you feel good, get in touch with what inspires you and brings you joy. Be very, very patient with yourself and very, very loving.


Conscious relaxation, over time and with practice, creates unconscious relaxation!


Namaste and Love,

Jacqui




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