The Guided Awareness in Shavasana is not a “Guided Relaxation.” You’ll never hear your teacher say, “Relax your feet and ankles,” or, “Let your legs soften.” In a Guided Relaxation you are relaxing, which is a type of doing, trying to relax the areas of your body that feel tense. How can that ever be successful?
Try it this way: right now, relax your shoulders. You can even speak directly to your shoulders. Say, “Shoulders, Relax!” Does it work?
Not really. Bottom line: thinking is not relaxing, in case you haven’t noticed. When you think of your toes, your toes are not going to relax. But when you become aware of your toes, something amazing happens. Of course, it may take a little bit longer to become aware of your toes, but that’s merely because you are not well practiced at awareness. Swami Nirmalananda says, “You have had a lot of practice with thinking, but you are not yet that good at awareness.”
When you cultivate awareness of your shoulders, they relax! From this you can conclude that awareness is relaxing. Fortunately, the medical community is now validating your personal findings through their studies of “the relaxation response.”
Under Dr. Herbert Benson, researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered long-term practitioners of relaxation methods (such as yoga and meditation) have far more “disease-fighting genes” active compared to those who practice no form of relaxation. Other medical researchers have found that yoga, meditation, and even repetitive prayer and mantras all induced the “relaxation effect,” a phenomenon that could be just as powerful as any medical drug but without the side effects.
One researcher explained it this way, “What you’re looking for is a state of deep relaxation where tension is released from the body on a physical level and your mind completely switches off. The effects won’t be achieved if you are lounging round in an everyday way, nor can you force yourself to relax. You can only really achieve it by learning specific techniques.”
Those techniques are not new. They are the ancient science of yoga.