(Editor’s Note: This series is dedicated to sharing the knowledge contained in “The Aquarian Teacher”, the teacher training manual shared by all students of the KRI certified Kundalini yoga teacher training program. This article is focused on Chapter 10 of the manual. You can discover the wisdom in greater depth by taking the Yoga Teacher Training course. We recommend the training offered by Golden Bridge Yoga held in Rishikesh, India February 1-23, 2013. Check out www.gbtrainings.com.)
“Total harmonious relaxation cures the body. To achieve this there must be a coordination between the three facets of ourselves: body, mind, and soul.” ~Yogi Bhajan
In today’s fast-paced, high-stress world, relaxation is an essential practice for physical, spiritual and mental well-being. In our culture, we’ve mistakenly trained ourselves to relax by watching tv, eating, or by drinking or smoking. This really isn’t relaxation and neither relaxes our bodies nor our minds. Relaxation is an essential tool within Kundalini yoga after the dynamic, active kriyas that we practice. Balancing our systems after active movement with conscious relaxation brings us into physical and mental alignment. During relaxation, you are rejuvenating your parasympathetic nervous system, distributing the prana you have built up during the kriya, helping muscles release rigid patterning and adopt a more neutral state, promoting glandular shifts, centering yourself emotionally, releasing stress, and also assisting the body and mind in developing an understanding of its own ‘natural state’ so that it relaxes automatically throughout your day. Isn’t that reason enough to practice relaxation as a discipline?
Relaxation During a Kriya
For beginners, this is important. Unless otherwise specified, take 1-3 minutes of relaxation between exercises or after a sequence. The entire kriya or meditation is then followed by 10-15 minutes of deep relaxation, a process referred to as “yoga nidra” or yogic sleep. For advanced kriyas and practitioners, relaxation varies. Often there is no relaxation between exercises, other than 10-30 second pauses. Other kriyas build yoga nidra (often in savasana) into the kriya itself. Be mindful and aware of the energies in your body and the wording of the kriya as given by Yogi Bhajan in order to determine the best practice for you.
Yogi Bhajan called living in states of inner conflict including anxiety, anger, and depression “commotional living”. This makes relaxation difficult, but especially valuable. When someone is deeply into a lifestyle of commotional living, what they need most is to relax. Relaxation releases patterns within muscle fibers that reinforce negative emotions. Consciously redistributing prana throughout the body can make a major impact on their lives.
When you consider that we are in reality souls who come to experience the physical, its easier to understand exactly why relaxation is so important in the practice of Kundalini yoga. Once you have done the work to connect to your own soul in a kriya, allowing yourself time to relax and feel this connection, to drop your attachment to the physical realm is at once beautiful and vital. This puts us in the eye of the hurricane of life and allows us a moment to breathe free from distraction. Quieting the mind and allowing it true rest, which does not come during sleep when we are actively engaged in dreaming, gives it a prolonged vitality and peacefulness.
Postures for Relaxation
The most common, of course, is Corpse Pose (Savasana). It is the best pose for deep relaxation. Lie on the back with both arms at the side, palms facing up and ankles uncrossed.
Baby Pose is a good relaxation posture during a kriya. It is especially important after a backbending exercise. In Rock Pose, rest your forehead on the ground, then place your arms alongside your body, palms facing up.
Gurupranam is a variation of Baby Pose. In Rock Pose, rest your forehead on the floor and extend your arms out in front of your palms together in prayer pose.
Easy Pose can be used during a set for a short break. Use a light relaxed breath, inhaling Sat and exhaling Nam.
“Deep relaxation is not just the absence of movement. It brings profound relaxation to the physical body, allowing us to enjoy and consciously integrate the mind-body changes which have been brought about during the practice of a kriya. We may sense the extension of the self through the magnetic field and the aura.” ~Yogi Bhajan
How to Lead a Great Relaxation
As a teacher of Kundalini Yoga, it is important to remember that most people have forgotten how to relax. You will need to teach students to relax their body and minds, which will naturally want to be doing something they recognize as more productive. Develop your own style for guided a deep relaxation. If you are more comfortable, you can play a guided meditation such as the “Guided Meditation for Relaxation” from my album “Journey into Stillness.”
Remind students to relax on their back and give them an opportunity to cover themselves with a blanket or shawl to keep warm. Guide them through correct Savasana, and invite them to close their eyes and go within. Relax the breath, making sure they are doing proper natural breathing, so that the belly rises on the inhale and falls on the exhale. Encourage them to let go, to relax and release and experience deep comfort. Consciously instruct them to let their body and mind relax. Go through each part of the body and give it instruction to relax, using gentle, comforting words such as “release”, “relax”, and “rest”. Make sure the environment is safe and will not have unnecessary interruptions. If you choose to play Kundalini yoga music, pay careful attention to the energy of the mantra and the frequency of the music. You do not have to play music, and you can allow students to rest into the silence; you can also play the gong, which clears the aura. You may also lead your students in a guided visualization, or use my tracks from the album “Journey into Stillness: Guided Meditations with Kundalini Mantra.” A teacher of Kundalini yoga does not relax with students, but instead consciously holds the space.
Once you invite your students or yourself back into their conscious awareness, have them follow this sequence:
Inhale and exhale deeply.
Move your fingers and toes, rotate the wrists and ankles in both directions.
Stretch the spine overhead, arms overhead and do a few cat stretches to each side.
Rub the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands together.
Rock back and forth along the spine.