Relaxation of the body and the mind comes before the attempt of developing the skill, strength and flexibility to perform the yoga exercises or yoga poses.
The physical, mental and emotional tension existing in the body and mind are mainly due to egoism and ungratified desires of coming in contact with the objects of name and form that the mind doesn’t like/doesn’t want and not coming in contact with the objects of name and form that the mind likes/wants, as well as accumulated from an imbalanced lifestyle of overly inactive/sedentary/idle or overly active/busy/restless way of life.
If one doesn’t know how to relax or let go all these accumulated tension while attempting to perform the yoga asana exercises or poses with the intention or expectation to be developing the physical strength and flexibility and the skill to do the poses, it’s not going to work efficiently.
When there are unnecessary tension existing in the body and the mind while doing the yoga asana practice:-
- The entire learning process of the mind and the body as well as the overall effect of the physical and mental practice/training will be less efficient.
- The mind is unable to focus which will be affecting the learning process and inattentiveness/cloudiness will lead to higher risk of accident and injury.
- The muscles/tendons/ligaments/joints/nerves/vital organs that are in a state of tension will be affecting the development of physical health, fitness, strength and flexibility and will lead to higher risk of injury, as well as influencing the mind being unable to be open towards the teachings or philosophy of yoga that might be different from or contradicted to the existing thinking and belief in the mind.
- The tensed body can’t really absorb the effect of the practice/training efficiently/properly/entirely even though the effect of the practice/training is present during and/or after the practice/training.
- Tensed mind and body is deeply related to higher risk of physical and mental illness as well as broken relationships, destructive behavior and social problems, not excluding ‘yoga enthusiast’.
- The tensed mind cannot function/think/act and react properly/healthily and easily gets confused/disturbed/intimidated by all kinds of names and forms that the mind perceives through the senses from moment to moment, and eventually losing sanity, or being unable to look after the well-being of oneself, or to live life independently, not excluding ‘yoga practitioner’ and ‘yoga teacher’.
That’s why the initial relaxation of the body and the mind in the beginning of the yoga asana practice, is very important/crucial, even before the warming-up exercises, to allow the body to be able to develop the skill, strength and flexibility efficiently and safely in a relaxed manner, as well as to allow the body to be absorbing the effect of the practice/training to the maximum, but more important, is to allow the mind to be able to be relaxed/open to inquire the truth of the teachings or philosophy of yoga that are not necessarily likable or agreeable to the mind that has been conditioned to think in certain ways and believe in certain beliefs that are different from the teachings or philosophy of yoga.
Relaxation of the body and mind should be the very first practice/learning/training for people who want to learn and practice yoga even before learning to do the basic yoga poses or guided breathing exercises. Such like simple abdominal breathing of slowing down the inhalation and exhalation in a relaxed manner without strain for a few minutes, and then moving the awareness from point to point in the physical body to be aware of any existing tension and let go the tension consciously, and bringing the mind into the present moment to be aware of the reality as it is, without craving or aversion. Without rushing into the yoga asana practice routine, without any expectation, the tension existing in the mind and body will be less intense and eventually dissolved/vanished, naturally.
The yoga asana practice of doing the yoga exercises or yoga poses are supposed to be helping the practitioner to relax the body and mind, or helping the body and mind to let go or release as much as possible all the unnecessary tensions that has been building up in everyday life, provided if the yoga asana practice is being done under a relaxed manner without strain/force with the correct understanding of the core teachings of yoga. It’s not building up more unnecessary tension into the body and mind during the yoga asana practice due to being unable to be relaxed while doing the practice by constantly straining or forcing the body to go beyond its imitation with intention/expectation to make it more strong and flexible in order to do some of the yoga poses that the mind wants to be able to do, due to the lack of correct understanding towards the core teachings of yoga.
The proper way of developing physical strength is not about building up more tightness/tension in the muscles groups of the physical body. Real strength comes from free-flow of sufficient energy supply and efficient/healthy function of the motor neurons and bio mechanism. If one of the nerves that connect the central nervous system to one of the muscles group doesn’t function properly, this part of the muscles group can’t function properly, even though the physical body has gone through intense and prolonged strength training and the muscles group is well-toned. A well-toned or tight/tensed muscles group cannot move or lift something, if there’s no proper sufficient energy supply to that area.
More important, the yoga practice is not about training/making the body more strong and flexible, as peace, compassion and the ability to forgive and let go what the mind perceives/recognizes as ‘negative’, ‘bad’, ‘wrong’, ‘hurtful, ‘sorrowful’ or ‘terrible’, is nothing to do with the physical condition/strength/flexibility. One doesn’t need to be physically ‘strong’ and ‘flexible’ or super healthy, to realize yoga, peace and compassion, or be forgiving and be able to let go.
While applying the teachings or philosophy of yoga practically in everyday life will help the practitioner to stop generating or accumulating as minimum as possible unnecessary physical, mental and emotional tension. It is what yoga practice is about – purification of the mind through the elimination of egoism.
This is similar to the final relaxation in the end of the yoga asana practice. It’s not just about to relax the body and mind after some physical and mental training, but it’s about non-attachment and non-identification towards all our actions/practice and renounce the fruit of action/practice or letting go the expectation towards the result of action/practice. This will bring the body and mind into effective deep relaxation under any condition or situation in life. Relaxation is indeed the elimination of egoism of the practice of non-attachment, non-identification, non-judgment, non-expectation, non-craving, non-aversion, and letting go. The body and mind is unable to be relaxed and constantly being in a state of tension is due to the egoism of attachment, identification, judgment, expectation, craving and aversion, and being unable/reluctant to let go or forgive.
People might confuse ‘the practice of relaxation or the ability to let go/be relaxed/calmed’ with the practice/idea/belief of positive thinking or optimism. Positive thinking or optimism doesn’t necessarily mean that the mind is relaxed/calmed or being free from the desire of craving and aversion, and be undisturbed/undetermined by what the impure mind perceives as ‘negative’, ‘bad’, ‘wrong’, ‘hurtful’, ‘sorrowful’, ‘disgusting’ or ‘terrible’. Positive thinking or optimism doesn’t correlate with the understanding/ability to accept the reality that is not necessarily the way that we like it to be, as it is, but more likely, it’s ignoring or denying the ‘negative’ undesirable reality that the mind doesn’t like and doesn’t want, and desiring/hoping to change the undesirable reality into something else that it is not, and expecting desires/wishes come true by trying to think and feel positively or optimistically. The mind is not free yet.