There is no easy pose, I use to say.
Also this last pose of every Ashtanga series can be a challenge and it has the potential to grow and it's possible to deepen the state of relaxation.
Relaxation was what amazed me in my first yoga class more than 30 decades ago. I had moved to Berlin and wanted to do something exotique. Flipping through the university sports offers I found yoga. This was it. I missed the first class as I took the wrong train and then it was too late. Next time I was there.
The teacher was very bendy. He could put his hands next to his feet while his legs were stretched. This had a wow-effect on me, I couldn't scarcly reach my shin bones when I bowed forward.
At the end we should lie on our backs and we were told to strain all or muscles as much as we can and then we should release them. Face muscles included. We repeated this exercise 3 times and then the teacher led us through the body and asked us to relax the toes, the feet, the calves.....and so on.
Soon I was in a state between being awake, concious and deeply relaxed at the same time. It seemed impossible to move. Thinking didn't happen. Just being. Never ever before I had experienced such a state of mind. This was what fascinated me most.
One man started snoring. I wasn't thinking about it, I just heard it. Relaxation pose is not about sleeping. Sleeping can be relaxing, too, of course. I love my afternoon nap. It prepares me for the second part of the day. I usually wake up well-rested.
We practice relaxation pose in Ashtanga yoga, too.
- In order to get into a deep state of relaxation I scan the body and relax one body part after the other.
- In order to feel at ease I need a timer to tell me when the time is over. The feeling of time gets lost during this pose and this makes me nervous.
Now comes the important part: In Ashtanga yoga we also learn to relax during the practice itself under diffiult circumstances.
- The difficult circumstances are the asanas that we practice and that cause a certain discomfort. It is important to keep breathing then. There is the tendency to stop breathing when it gets tough, but this is the task to stay relaxed and to have an even breath.
- Focusing the mind on the breath is the next relaxation technique during the practice. No worries should come up when we are busy observing the inhaling and exhaling.
- Another challenge is to keep the face relaxed when exercising challenging asanas. Having a slight smile on the face can relax the whole body.
Yes, Ashtanga yoga teaches more than fancy asanas.