The Importance of Relaxation
By Susi Hately Aldous,
Founder Functional Synergy and Anatomy and Asana

As I have written previously, one of the principles of Anatomy and Asana (and perhaps the most important principle of them all) - is about cultivating relaxation in your yoga practice. Not only at the beginning, but throughout the entire practice.

As yogis and yoginis, we know this concept can seem obvious. However, all to often I see experienced yogis and yoginis who have forced through their practice, with debilitating results. They are in pain and have some type of injury.

There is good news though....when they truly take on relaxation, it all changes - their physiology shifts to something that is more welcoming to physical change, and in turn their structure shifts as well, with lovely, calming and strength building results.  

So how does this work and what is happening:

Relaxation occurs in a cycle of layers. It begins with breath and continues with awareness. For example, many people start a yoga practice with breathing in either a sitting, standing, or reclining position. As the breathing rate, depth, and ease are observed, the beginning stages of relaxation are induced and the parasympathetic nervous system response is turned on. Awareness develops. As awareness develops, a yogi can perceive the level of tension or freedom that exists in his muscles, connective tissue or joints. If tension is perceived, the yogi can use his breath to release it.

As the practice continues, movement occurs - either in the form of a sequenced vinyasa practice, or in the form of statically held asanas. Whichever the form, the cycle continues - observation of breath, which results in relaxation, which leads to body awareness.

the most important yoga pose... savasana

Yoga and the Sacroiliac Joints, the first Special Addition to

Anatomy and Asana: Preventing Yoga Injuries, is now available on-line at:

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Breathing, relaxing, and developing awareness enable you to feel and connect to your anatomy and physiology. It takes the learning of anatomy from the cerebral level to the body level, from knowing it intellectually to understanding it viscerally. It brings balance and helps mobilize joints. It facilitates circulation and improves strength, coordination, and communication between the nerves and muscles. It makes you sensitive so that you can feel what is blocked in your body and then be able to do something about it rather than force through it, which could potentially cause injury. Not being relaxed and aware is a recipe for trouble.

Relaxation in yoga asanas is not "doing nothing". It is the direct experience of the vital and dynamic action that is inside, which occurs when there is space and freedom for movement. It occurs when we don't force the movement. When movements in yoga are forced, tension develops. Typically, the tension develops at the superficial layers of muscles. As relaxation develops, the superficial muscles release, and deeper muscles can take over. As a result, core stability improves, mobility and flexibility increase, and strength and power are enhanced.

Let's explore:

As students start out in yoga, their first awareness may be that their scapulae sit by their ears. They might not have realized that before, but after a few classes their awareness of this fact develops. As they continue to practice, the feel a release and begin to experience freedom and a new strength around their spine, shoulders and scapulae. They begin to experience a new pattern of movement - not one they forced on themselves, but rather one that emerged naturally.

The trick to letting the movement emerge naturally is to notice while in the yoga asana if you are furrowing your brow, clenching your jaw, or forcefully deepening your breath. These type of actions are not beneficial for release. Rather, they increase tension in the body, causing what would be fluid and easy movement to become constrained and constricted, muscle and fascia to contract forcefully, and tension to reverberate through the body. When experiencing movement in this way, mobility and strength diminish.

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Enjoy Exploring,

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