To release stress, it is often enough to move and stretch our tense, strained bodies while focussing on the breath. The practice of yoga postures or asanas helps develop strength and flexibility, improves balance, and calms the mind. It also has a positive influence on the nervous, immune, digestive and hormonal systems. Practised with subtle awareness, the simplest asanas bring peaceful equilibrium to the body and mind. The effect is calming, energising and grounding. In the words of Swami Satyananda, asanas are “techniques which place the physical body in positions that cultivate awareness, relaxation, concentration and meditation.”
Following the asanas, pranayama or breathing techniques pave the way to relaxation and meditation, bringing the mind to a state of calm alertness and introversion. The breath profoundly affects the state of mind and emotions, as well as physical health. The various techniques, such as abdominal breathing, full yogic breath and classical pranayama, work on the nervous system to bring about vitalising, harmonising or tranquilising effects. Breathing slowly and deeply is the easiest way to activate the rest-and-digest system. The effect can be felt immediately – pranayama soothes frazzled nerves and quiets the anxious mind. With regular practice it works at an even deeper level, reestablishing healthy breathing patterns and teaching us to relax consciously and systematically.
Yoga nidra is a form of relaxation and meditation that allows one to access the deepest realms of consciousness. Scientifically based, it induces a state of deep relaxation that leaves the body and mind refreshed and energised. Half an hour of yoga nidra is equivalent to two hours of conventional sleep. Complete relaxation is a learned skill, especially for people who are often stressed. In yoga nidra, one learns to relax consciously. During the practice, students assume a comfortable posture and remain awake while following spoken instruction. Yoga nidra is a guided technique that helps to release the inner tensions of the body, emotions and mind, helping with managing symptoms of stress, including insomnia. Yoga nidra also relaxes the mind enabling the practitioner to let go and release mental tensions. It removes mental blocks and past conditioning. Eventually, the continued practice of yoga nidra opens and awakens the individual mind and awakens the faculty of intuition. This awakening of inner potential leads to enhanced creativity.
The meditation techniques learned at a Tools for Inner Peace retreat aim to develop the ability to observe thought patterns and feelings without being caught up in them. Meditation brings greater self-understanding, reduces tension and increases clarity of thinking. It is a pathway to inner peace.