What is Relaxation Yoga?

On Tuesday evenings I hold a class called “Relaxation Yoga and Meditation”. But what exactly is Relaxation Yoga?

There are many different styles of yoga, and the style that is taught on Tuesday evening is a combination of Yin and Restorative yoga. Yin yoga is a relatively new style of yoga, introduced in the 1980s by Paul Grilley. Paul had seen Paulie Zink stay in yoga poses for more than ten minutes to try and increase his physical flexibility, and Paul included ancient Chinese medicine and termed it ‘Yin yoga’. The idea behind this practice was to soften and give more space to the practitioner. When practicing yin, we should let these five qualities guide us:

Softening, patience, kindness, effort and dedication

Norman Blair, who is one of the top Yin teachers in the UK, says that this style of yoga is “really slow”. We should investigate the location and sensation of the stretch. There is an emphasis on lengthening and deepening the breath, as well as directing the breath into any areas of tightness.

Prior to the introduction of Yin yoga, the famous yogi BKS Iyengar was teaching what he called ‘restorative yoga’, where poses were held for several minutes and were often supported with props such as blocks, blankets and bolsters.

The benefits of a regular Relaxation Yoga practice are:

  • Calms and balances the mind and body
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Increases circulation
  • Improves flexibility
  • Releases fascia and improves joint mobility
  • Balances the internal organs and improves the flow of prana (energy)

Tuesday classes also include a deep relaxation and guided meditation at the end of the class called ‘Yoga Nidra’; sometimes called ‘yogic sleep’, yoga nidra is an immensely powerful meditation technique. The practitioner rests comfortably in savasana (corpse pose), and the guided meditation takes you through the five layers of self (pancha maya kosha), leaving you with a sense of wholeness. Whilst some texts refers to people emerging from yoga nidra in a state of enlightenment, it is more commonly used to help deal with stress and anxiety, as well as other conditions such as insomnia and addiction.

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