From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

The science of relaxation is an exact science. It can be learnt very quickly. The relaxation of the muscles is as important as their contraction. I lay great emphasis on the relaxation of the mind, the nerves and the muscles. Relaxation is of two kinds – physical and mental. There is another classification. If you relax certain muscles of certain parts only, it is partial relaxation. If you relax the muscles of the whole body, it is complete relaxation.

Physical relaxation

You must know how to relax all the muscles of your body after you have finished your daily course of exercises. The practice of relaxing the muscles will bring rest to the body and the mind. The tension of the muscles will be relieved. People who know the art of relaxing do not waste any energy. They can meditate well.

After finishing your exercises and asanas, lie flat on your back. Keep the arms relaxed at the sides. Keep them quite loose. Relax all the muscles from head to foot. Roll the mind over the body from top to toe. You may find that certain muscles are not completely relaxed. Relax them also.

Roll on to one side and then relax as completely as possible. Do not strain any of the muscles. Relax completely. Roll on to the other side and then relax again. This is done naturally by everyone during sleep.

Relax the head, shoulders, arms, forearms, wrists, fingers, thighs, legs, ankles, toes, knees, elbows, waist, etc. Yogis and wrestlers know the method of relaxing thoroughly. When you practise this exercise, you should think of calmness and strength.

If you like, you can practise relaxation by lying in an easy chair, after finishing your asanas or exercises. Those who know how to relax can take a short nap for ten minutes or so at any time they like. Busy people and doctors and lawyers should know this science. They should relax the mind and rest in the waiting rooms of railway stations and in bar rooms as well. They will then be quite fit for further activities. Relaxation refreshes a person completely.

If you do not possess a knowledge of this science of internal and external relaxation, you will waste your physical and mental energy considerably.

Yogis conserve their physical and mental energy and utilize it to their best advantage. They are perfect masters of this useful science. Those who practise relaxation never experience fatigue. They can close their eyes for a few minutes even while standing and so prepare themselves for further work. Energy flows into their nerves when they relax, just as water flows when a tap is opened.

Physical relaxation is an art and as such it has to be practised regularly in order to achieve success and gain the maximum benefit. Success in physical relaxation will make mental relaxation easier.

Mental relaxation

Just as you relax your muscles after having practised your asanas and physical exercises, so also you will have to relax the mind after concentration and meditation, and after the practice of memory training and will-culture. Relaxation of the muscles brings repose to the body, and relaxation of the mind brings repose to the body. The body and mind are intimately linked. The body is a mould prepared by the mind for its enjoyment.

The mind gathers experiences through the body and works in conjunction with the prana, senses and body. The mind has influence over the body. If you are cheerful, the body will also be healthy and strong. When you feel depressed, the body cannot work. Conversely, the body has some influence over the mind. If the body is healthy and strong, the mind also will be happy, cheerful and strong. If there is a little stomachache, the mind cannot work well. Thought manifests as action, and action reacts on the mind. The mind acts on the body and the body reacts on the mind. Removal of tension in the muscles brings repose and calmness to the mind.

By relaxing you give rest to the mind, to the tired nerves and to the overworked muscles. You get immense peace of mind, strength and vigour. When you practise relaxation of either the body or the mind, the brain should not be occupied with various kinds of irrelevant, extraneous thoughts. Anger, envy, disappointment, failure, indisposition, misery, sorrow and quarrels cause internal mental strain. The practice of relaxing the mind will remove this internal mental strain and fill the mind with new mental energy. It will make you cheerful and happy.

Mental poise and calmness may be brought about by eradication of worry and anger. In truth, fear really underlies both worry and anger. Nothing is gained by worry and anger; on the contrary, much energy is wasted by these two lower emotions. Be careful and thoughtful. All unnecessary concern should be avoided. Expel all fear, worry and anger. Think of courage, joy, bliss, peace and cheerfulness. Sit for fifteen minutes in a relaxed state in an easy, comfortable position. You can sit in an easy chair. Close your eyes. Withdraw the mind from all outer objects. Still the mind. Silence the bubbling thoughts.

Here is another way to relax the mind. Close the eyes. Think of anything that is pleasant. This will relax the mind in a wonderful manner. Think of the mighty Himalayas, the sacred river Ganges, any impressive scenery in Kashmir, the Taj Mahal, the Victoria Memorial in Calcutta, a lovely sunset, the vast expanse of ocean, the infinite blue sky. Imagine that the whole world and your body are floating like a straw in this vast ocean of Spirit. Feel that you are in touch with the Supreme Being. Feel that the life of the whole world is pulsating, vibrating and throbbing through you. Feel the Lord Hiranyagarbha, the ocean of life, is gently rocking you on His vast bosom. Then open your eyes. You will experience great mental peace, mental vigour and mental strength. Practise and feel this power within.

During your daily activity, also stop your work for a few minutes and think of the peace of God. Feel His peace and serenity all around you, and that it fills your entire being from head to foot.

May peace and bliss ever fill your being!