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To many the word 'relax' means something bad is about to happen.
Hundreds of people here in the USA and even other countries have told me that when they hear the word relax, immediately they tense up waiting for something bad or painful to happen. Invariably it started when they were children. When they were ever ill and had to go to the doctor, the doctors certainly made a friend of themselves for life when they would say..."relax, this would not hurt one bit"; then came the injection needle and they there was pain. There are many who might remember when the cure for all was a penicillin injection.
To an adult an injection might be and exhilarating experience and be able to brave it, but to a child it is trauma and worst yet, the child thinks that he or she is being lied to that it will not hurt. Many learn that the word relax precedes some traumatic experience. Usually for those people who expect a traumatic experience to follow the word relax tenses their entire body 'withdrawing all their limbs' in an attempt to hide or shield themselves from the pain which is to follow.
Later on in life we learn that the only way to truly relax is through a system which can be rightly called 'Cocktail Yoga' promoted by society. Having a stiff drink, perhaps several or a smoke of cigarette or both. The phrase "have a glass or wine and unwind" might be more appropriate. In the same way that we have time measured in terms of day and night there is a special time called 'happy hour' in bars and night clubs. After happy hour time losses its potency.
This method works only in so far as to numb, or sedate the tension. To be anesthetized or sedated is society's way of relaxation. If being sedated or comatose was indeed relaxation then all the hospitals would rightly be filled with yogis, since there are many who are in induced coma or sedated lying on a hospital bed. But they are not really yogis and hence being sedated certainly cannot be called relaxation.
For those who practice yoga and practice correctly will come to know that relaxation is 'dynamic stillness'.
Yes there are those yoga classes that also causes the entire body to become numb and the mind unable to think clearly thus sedating the body and senses. For this type of yoga, the phrase "beating the beast into submission" might is certainly appropriate. This is not really yoga and can only harm the body. Even though it might be highly approved by some physician for its sedative effect and calling it scientific, does not make it yoga. I have seen too many people who are hurt by this approach.
I do not wish to name the various 'schools' of yoga that approach the practice this way.
There are other approaches of yoga that are strictly scientific which are codified and graduated with step by step progression and advancement. one of those is the traditional Ashtanga Yoga system. I emphasized the word traditional, since recently many forms of 'personality yoga' are being called Ashtanga, and some used the word Ashtanga to teach only physical exercises.
The crowning glory of many of these systems is the ability to relax the gross physical muscles. When the student is able to relax somewhat the gross physical muscles, they are ready to wave the banner of relaxation. Relaxation of the gross physical muscles even though having great merit, it is only superficial.
Lets stop and think for a moment,...
Stress in its various forms is what break down the internal organs and the immune systems . Diseases and illnesses does not arise from the gross external muscles and the arrangement and control of the extremities does not heal the internal organs. There are many techniques that are popularly known that help the internal organs and has to be applied systematically and gradually.
So far, so good!
Voluntary External Systems Vs Involuntary Systems.
There are much deeper techniques that are available under strict guidance that the yogic masters, who had developed that work specifically on the internal organs and the immune system, for relaxing the so called 'involuntary systems'.
Some examples of the involuntary systems are respiratory system, which we may have some control and also the pulmonary system, again to some extent. Largely, however, the digestive system, eliminatory system, urinary system, etc, including the nervous system and the brain, are considered impossible to relax or to bring under conscious control.
Many tests were conducted on my teacher on the subject of the involuntary systems and he showed under strict lab condition that it can be done. When asked how he did it, one of his answers was "it my body, I do what I want with it".
When one learns to relax the internal organs and the endocrine and nervous system with very special techniques in yoga, one will be able to 'heal' the internal organs and not be subject to diseases and illnesses providing they practice.
Some of these techniques were taught to me by my master when I visited him in the Himalayas. Though he repeatedly praised the virtues of these techniques while here in the United States, I did not pay keen attention, but practiced anyway out or trust and have reaped the benefits of the practice.
Proper Relaxation does not precede trauma, nor is it achieved with a sedative or numbing the muscles and senses, but in is achieved with Alert and Dynamic Stillness.