Strange things can happen when you relax – and here’s why that’s a good thing

Eyes closed relaxing
Close your eyes, take some deep breaths and prepare to relax…

Have you ever experienced something a little odd when you’ve tried to relax?

Maybe your body twitches.  Random images float in your mind’s eye. You remember things or people you hadn’t thought about in years. Memories come to the surface. Maybe your mind simply won’t shut up.

I hear lots of interesting feedback from people who come to my yoga classes. They love the deep, therapeutic relaxation which ends every class but sometimes their experience is, well, a bit unexpected.

One lady said she feels like she goes off into some kind of dream state. Someone else told me they feel like they were almost going to sleep and then their whole body had jolted awake (although I could see that they’d barely moved). And there’s the classic “when I try to relax my mind prepares shopping lists” reaction!

I love a deep relaxation myself, but my common experience is: ideas come up for yoga classes and blog articles; I remember people I need to email; I get inspiration for a new workshop; or I remember a yoga pose I was going to practise today and I forgot.

If you’ve experienced anything like this, don’t worry, it’s all perfectly natural!

What’s going on?

Yogic relaxation is a very powerful practice. It helps us to release on all sorts of levels. And when we release, well, those things released have a habit of coming up into our conscious awareness.

For example, if you’re very tired … your body may try to sleep but you suddenly become aware of the voice of your teacher, or music, or the fact you’re trying to relax and your body twitches as you come back to conscious awareness.

If you’re very tense your muscles may need a little more coaxing and encouragement to let go – use your out-breath to encourage release. Use your mind to ask these areas to soften. It works! {But don’t suffer in silence if lying on your back isn’t comfortable. Bend your knees. Or lie on your side. Or sit on a chair. Whatever works for you.}

If you’ve got stuff on your mind … the mind will try to use this quiet, still time to make you think about this stuff.

As you relax deeply your body may begin to let go of deep-held physical tensions (hence the twitching or jerking feeling).

As you deeply relax and let go of everyday thoughts, long-forgotten or bottled up memories may rise to the surface. Or emotions which you usually suppress will make themselves known.

Also be aware that your ego mind may be resisting the relaxation and presenting you with things to think about! And that’s natural too.

It’s all part of the therapeutic relaxation process.

During yogic relaxation your body and mind are processing your life experience. Know that your body is using its innate wisdom to release what it needs to. Your deepest sense of self is enabling you to acknowledge and/or let go of emotions and thoughts which no longer serve.

Don’t just tune in and drop out

Relaxation is an active process. A relaxed alertness. It’s not about lying down and zoning out. It’s about allowing yourself just to be with whatever sensations arise. Notice them. Don’t judge them or resist them.

Yogic relaxation is a deeply therapeutic way to relax and heal all layers of your body’s energy – physical, emotional and mental. It gives you the tools to heal dis-ease, achieve your goals and to transform negative thoughts or emotions into positive.

Of course the body’s relaxation response happens automatically when we’re asleep but Yogic relaxation (or Yogic Sleep aka Yoga Nidra) is different from sleep. Sleep is passive. But relaxation is a conscious decision. Relaxation is an active process.

And the great news is that we can use the power of our conscious mind to trigger the body’s relaxation response.

Choose relaxation

Relaxation can become an decision we take every day. We can learn to choose relaxation over stress and anxiety.

So whatever comes up for you during relaxation – whether it’s snoring, twitching, images, memories or making shopping lists – know that it’s all good.

Your body, spirit and soul and being nourished by this practice of stillness.

And the more regularly you practice, the deeper the benefits will be.

So set aside 5-10 minutes now and try this.

A simple relaxation

  1. Lie or sit comfortably – if you’re sitting make sure your feet are on the floor – or a book or cushion if they don’t reach – and your spine is upright.
  2. Set your intention – to relax into stillness, to find calmness and joy. Whatever speaks to you.
  3. Scan your body – from your feet through your legs, hips, abdomen, chest, back, arms & hands, shoulders, neck, head and face. Notice how each area feels and, using your conscious mind, invite each area to relax with your out-breath.
  4. Be aware of your breath – sense your body breathing by itself. Observe the flow of air in the nostrils, throat, and rib cage as well as the rise and fall of the abdomen with each breath.
  5. Notice your feelings – watch any physical sensations, any emotions which may arise. Welcome and observe them without judgement.
  6. Observe your thoughts – notice the thoughts, images, memories which come up. Again, simply watch the, without judgement, and without getting pulled into them. Notice them and let them go.
  7. Welcome in joy and peace – from your heart, invite a sense of joy to fill your body; your whole being; the space around you; your locality… the world. And draw that joy back into yourself.
  8. To finish – slowly and gradually move your body. Stretch. Yawn. Slowly transition back into your everyday life and notice the effects of this powerful practice.

What next

If you would like regular tips, insights and wisdom delivered to your inbox, and to receive a free 17-minute guided relaxation, then please leave your name and email address.

And if you’d like to try a slower-paced, therapeutic approach to yoga which helps you to relax, then why not come along to one of my yoga classes in Southampton & Eastleigh, Hampshire, UK?

We complete every class with a guided relaxation so come along and experience the benefits for yourself.

I teach five public classes a week as well as offering private 1-2-1 tuition, with a programme of workshops for 2015. Check out my yoga class timetable to find out more and make a booking enquiry.


{Photo credit: A. Pagliaricci ♦ / Foter / CC BY}

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