Saturday, November 21, 2009

The importance of relaxing

During periods of relaxation after concentrated periods of intellectual activity, the intuitive mind seems to take over and produce the sudden clarifying insights which give so much joy and delight.
Fritjof Capra, physicist

Relaxation is one of the key components of building strength. Without relaxing we can burn out both mentally and physically. Look at nature. All of nature knows how to relax. After a storm there is a period of calm, animals take long siestas after a big meal, plants flower and then go into periods of dormancy.

Stress and tension are the opposites of relaxation. When we are tense we barely breathe, which affects how we think and takes an enormous toll on our health. Somehow we often seem compelled to keep going no matter how hard our bodies are screaming for rest.

Research has shown that deep rest is crucial to our peace of mind, emotional well-being, physical health, and high-level performance. Top athletes know how to relax after workouts and before competition. When watching an athletic event, you can often pick out the winners because they appear more relaxed and use their energy more efficiently. Pressure to succeed can be self-defeating when we push too hard.

One of the great gifts of yoga is teaching us how to use the breath and relax our skin, neck and face even during the most difficult poses. Without a layer of softness the pose becomes stiff and unnecessarily difficult. Trying harder is not always the answer to achieving or holding a pose. What is really important is the balance between strength and softness. Meditation, where we focus only on the breath, is one of the deepest forms of relaxation and one of the most difficult.

View relaxation as a gift to give yourself over and over again. Be in harmony with nature and cultivate the ability to breathe fully and deeply. Tension creates tunnel vision. Releasing fear and worry opens the door to intuition and to a world of possibilities.

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