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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

PRACTICE : A Simple Solution to the Stress of Modern Day Society

January 31, 2005

In the modern, fast-paced society of multitasking, distractions, and responsibilities, stress and exhaustion are inevitable. We rarely sit still without feeling as though we are wasting time or becoming anxious about the rest of the day. Hence, exhaustion, stress, and stress related disorders are apparent throughout our community. Recent studies indicate that even the common cold can be attributed to stress. Stress induced ailments include hypertension, anxiety, irritability, sleep disorders, diabetes, and back pain. We allow ourselves to take a “break” from our hectic schedules via unconscious methods of relaxation or with the support of external influences, such as drinking, drugs, or social diversions. Unfortunately, when we remove the influence of the external agency, we once again revert back to our original or an even worse state of dissatisfaction. So how do we begin to relax and begin to de-stress on a more permanent level from within?One method, is through the practice of Shavasana. Shavasana is a conscious process of relaxation which is the crown of all postures. It is important to do this after all other asana (physical) practices to derive the full benefits. As it is defined in the sutra of Hata Pradeepika,“Uttanam shavavat bhumau, shayanam tat shavaasanamShavaasanam kshanti haram, chitta visranti kaarakam”Spreading on the even ground in a head up position, is called shavaasana. Shavaasana is good for removing exhaustion and establishing peace of mind.The general principles of Shivassana are outlined in the sutra of Hata Pradeepika, but the actual benefits and internalization of the practice can only occur from experience. The Practice of ShivassanaThe Position:1. Lie down on the even ground (on a soft carpet) on your back.2. Spread your legs and hands comfortably apart3. Ensure that your back rests comfortably.Note: Asthmatics, while in heavy breathing, may feel more comfortable lying on your belly, instead of your back.The Practice:There are three levels of Shivassana:1. Isometric Relaxation (IR): Tighten the entire body from head to toe continuously, while also holding in your breath for as long as possible. Then collapse the entire body, including the breath, at once. While collapsing, you can observe the body slipping into relaxation in the next minute. This is a great experience which can be practiced while sitting anywhere, anytime.2. Quick Relaxation (QR):Another modification is where you collapse the body and observe the breathing at the belly level. The belly should rise on inhalation and drop on exhalation. Completely detach from the body and observe the body sinking with each breath out. Gently chant “Aaaaah” with each breath out. This will take about 2-3 minutes and takes you into deeper relaxation.3. Deep Relaxation (DR):Relax the each body part individually from toes to head. First, relax the joints then move on to each muscle. As you reach the waist, go to deeper relaxation with the help of sound resonance of gently chanting “Aaahh.” As you reach the shoulder level, relax deep into the cell level with the sound of “Uuu.” Relax your head with the sound “Mmmm.” Then relax the entire body with the sound resonance of “AUM.” The entire exercise takes 10-12 minutes.There are further modified techniques that are yoga nidra and progressive relaxation given by different schools of yoga. All of these practices can be done directly before going to bed after a long day of work and can enhance the quality of sleep. Initially, shivaasana can be practiced with audio music but once you begin getting deeper into the relaxation, the music may become a hindrance and silence may be preferred.As you begin the exercise, you may find that you fall asleep in the process of this relaxation. There is nothing wrong with this, but will actually enhance the quality of your sleep! After a few days of practice you will begin to consciously relax without falling asleep. Shivassana assists in transcending the physiological plane and allows us to go into more subtle levels of existence to Pranayama Kosa or subtle personality as we continually practice it. SUMMARY: Shavaasana is a corpse pose which can assist in alleviating stress and stress related issues such as hypertension, back pain, diabetes, and gastric disorders. It can be practiced in 2-10 minutes, but the only way to obtain the benefits is through regular practice.

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