One of the great benefits of the yoga exercises is that they help you to release any pent-up tension that you might be holding in your muscles, letting it revert back to usable energy.
Yoga is similar to acupuncture or shiatsu in that each asana stimulates different subtle points, helping to relieve potential blockages in your meridians. After the energy is freed, it is a good idea to relax and allow the energy to flow freely throughout your body.
Relaxed muscles are better able to function more efficiently and stretch further. There is less chance of your hurting yourself when you are relaxed, move slowly with full awareness and have a calm mind.
To obtain the maximum physical and mental benefit from your asana practice, treat yourself to a long and deep relaxation at the close of each session. Lying flat on your back, request each part your body to relax.
Begin by raising your right leg about 5 cm from the ground. Tense it and then gently let it drop back onto the ground. Repeat this process with your left leg, right arm, left arm, and then with your hips, chest and shoulders. Finish by slowly rolling your head from side to side once or twice, then bring it back to centre.
Next, mentally relax your body. Begin with a focus on your toes; feel them relax completely. Permit the wave of relaxation to move up through your body, relaxing each part in turn: your feet, ankles, calves, knees and thighs.
Feel the relaxation coming into your hips; relax your abdominal organs and your buttocks. Allow the relaxation to slowly move up your back. Let the muscles of your back relax completely. The ground is supporting you; there is no need to engage your muscles to hold your body up.
Feel the relaxation coming into your chest; your breathing becomes very gentle.
Relax your fingers, hands, wrists as the relaxation moves up your arms to relax your shoulders and your neck. Experience the relaxation as it comes into your head to relax your face. Loosen your tongue and the muscles at the back of your throat. Relax your lips, chin, cheeks, eyes, eyebrows, forehead and scalp. Finally, relax your brain.
After remaining in this pose for at least 10 minutes, feel the movement coming back into your body. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Stretch your arms up over your head – give your whole body a long luxurious stretch. Roll over onto one side and slowly sit up.
Yoga Vidya is a non-profit association and Europe's leading provider of education and training in yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, massage, holistic health and spirituality.