Guided Relaxation with Mary Coleman

What is Guided Relaxation?

For most human beings, our minds are like the wind – blowing about, constantly changing direction, getting snared on a particular thought pattern, scattered and in motion. It is difficult for us to be still and quiet in body and in mind. Even in relaxation pose (shavasana) at the end of a yoga class, we may experience moments of quiet but the mind will have its way again and soon enough we are thinking of what we have to do after class or what we want to eat for dinner.

Guided relaxation is a very intentional process. The teacher anchors the students in their natural breathing pattern and then guides them through intentional points of energy in the body, in particular through the centers of consciousness known as the chakras. As we bring our awareness to each center of consciousness, we support the natural flow of energy through each of these centers and this helps us to balance our body, mind and spirit. Guided relaxation is an extremely effective tool to cultivate the ability to reset our nervous systems. This is especially important because, for most of us, we live in an environment of stress. The more capacity we build to reset our nervous system, the more capable we are of bouncing back after a challenging life experience.

As we move through the relaxation, we also train our senses to move away from the outer world and we draw ourselves into our inner world. This is known as pratyahara (sensory withdrawal).

We then move our awareness to the natural movement and rhythm of our breathing. We don’t alter or shape the breath, rather we witness the breath and the body breathing on its own. This is called dharana – or one-pointed concentration. We rest our minds on this one point – the breath – allowing all other thoughts to pass by without attaching ourselves to them.

When the mind is well-anchored in the breath, we begin to experience a deep sense of peace. This sense of peace prepares us for dhyana – meditation. Meditation is different than one-pointed concentration in that we are no longer interrupted by our thoughts and the need to bring our awareness back to the point of concentration. As we practice, we may experience split seconds of dhyana – this is a wonderful gift because it gives us a direct experience of what we are working towards. We continue to practice with faith, determination, courage and without attachment so that we can experience this for longer periods of time.

Ultimately, this leads to a mind that is free of the roaming tendencies; a mind that is still and pristine. The object of concentration, the act of concentrating and the mind trying to concentrate are no longer separate – they have all become one. This is called Samadhi.

Author: Mary Coleman, ERYT500 teaches guided relaxation in every one of her classes.