The Method of Deep Body Relaxation: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Deep Body Relaxation

I used to teach Yoga, relaxation, and meditation classes in the late 1970s in NYC to make a living. After the Hatha Yoga sequence was done, students were led through a guided deep body relaxation in Shava Asana (the corpse pose where everyone lies down and relaxes each part of the body). After teaching Yoga for many years, it seemed to me that for most students, the guided meditation while lying down was absolutely the most favorite part of the class. Many students would continue in the Shava Asana for half an hour or more after the class was over. Some became so relaxed that they would fall asleep.

Over the years, I have come to feel that the best posture for meditation is not always the Lotus posture as many Yoga traditions claim, but simply lying down in Shava Asana. The sleeping posture is universal and sets no high bar for anyone to have to overcome. Therefore, it is the perfect posture for attaining Self-Realization. In fact, we know that the Sage of Arunachala, Sri Ramana Maharshi, became Self-Realized in that posture.

Deep body relaxation can be mastered by anyone slowly and many people experience physical, mental, and spiritual benefits from it. I have personally found it to be immensely useful in a variety of ways. My own experience of the Heart, Oneness of Being, came when I was very young. I had been meditating for many hours, sitting straight in a cross-legged position, and my back was aching and so tired that I lay down to rest for a few minutes. I was not trying to relax but it was in that resting posture that this deep conscious relaxation came over me and the truth of being revealed itself with complete clarity.

The Relaxation Method

The relaxation method I use is easy. I simply bring attention to every part of the body and consciously experience it and relax it. I start with each individual toe on both feet and relax these. I also focus on the bottom of the feet and relax these. Then I focus on the upper feet and relax these. Then I come to the ankles and relax these and keep moving up to the legs and other parts of the body and so on.

Sometimes, in my teaching, I have combined this method with visualization of white light filling the different parts of the body from the head to the toes. This is a beautiful way to use the intelligence and imaginative and visual faculty of the mind to fill the body with deep relaxation and to create a sanctuary of peace for one self.

Of course, Hatha Yoga is important for many people and sitting in meditation with a straight spine has its own health and energy oriented benefits. Meditation on energy centers along the spine is facilitated by sitting straight in a cross-legged posture. It also helps in doing certain pranayama and deep breathing exercises.

For many people who cannot sit cross- legged, sitting straight on a chair with support for the elbows is helpful. There are many ways to meditate. The main thing is that one should be comfortable in one’s posture.

Sincere Practice Leads to Self-Discovery

One, who is serious about meditation and relaxation and practices it with sincerity, slowly discovers what postures and exercises are the most helpful for her/his body and mind. Each person is unique in terms of what they find useful.

Finding a good yoga teacher is much easier today than it was when I was teaching. Back in the 1970s, in the U.S. and other Western countries, Yoga was popular only in big cities like Manhattan and Los Angles among the actors and actresses and the elite. But now it has become more mainstream and one can find Yoga classes in virtually any city.

Deep body relaxation seems to be universally attractive to people, because it allows for letting go of accumulated tension. It is easy to learn and do and with practice and experience becomes natural.

Tips for Career and Stress Management in the Workplace: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

In my view, stress and career management are central to the lives of most people. Given below are some tips that make sense to me. Take them with good humor and make up some of your own.

1. Make friends with your Boss. Research shows that bosses can be a major source of workplace stress. According to Professor Hochwater and his doctoral students, who conducted a study on bad bosses, “Employees stuck in an abusive relationship experienced more exhaustion, job tension, nervousness, depressed mood and mistrust.”

2. Laughing can break up an otherwise negative mental state. Humor plays a big role in our seeing things in perspective. Keep a book of good jokes handy at the workplace and flip through it now and then. Make friends with funny co-workers. They are all around you. When things get difficult, go talk to them and ask them to make you laugh. You will be surprised at the comedic talent available in the workplace. From personal experience, after my most uncontrollable laughs, I have felt much better and rejuvenated afterwards.

3. Assess your skills and abilities in terms of long term goals. Enhance these further through education and training, particularly if your company is willing to pay for it. Many organizations these days pay for their employees getting an advanced degree like an MBA. Higher level of training and education will allow you take charge of your career and make you more marketable. People experience more anxiety and stress when they feel things are not in their control and that they have limited options.

4. Be alert to opportunities around you both within and outside the workplace and take advantage of them. Bite only as much as you can chew and do not say yes to too many workplace projects. It will scatter your energy and leave you exhausted. However, success in fewer and even smaller projects will give you confidence as well as an enhanced professional reputation among your co-workers.

5. Take one or two 10 minutes walks during the workday. I find short walks, or even climbing up and down the stairs several times during the day to be very useful for me. Lunch is a good time for walking. You can walk outside in the fresh air and then come back and eat a light, balanced, and nutritious lunch. I wish I could take my own advice more often! When I can though, I find that walking and deep yogic breathing can do wonders for creativity, energy level, and the general elevation of mood.

6. I find that drinking enough plain water during the workday is very helpful to me. If I drink too much tea or coffee as substitutes for water, it creates physiological symptoms of stress such as sweaty palms, increased heart rate, and just more nervous energy than I need. Students who drink too much tea and coffee before their classes risk the increased possibility of having to take a bathroom break when critical topics are being discussed.

7. Calm and center yourself through meditation and/or prayer several times a day. This is particularly helpful before important presentations and meetings. People listen better, speak more clearly, and in general communicate much more effectively when they are relaxed. If you do not have your own office and feel strange about closing your eyes publicly and just sitting quietly, then go to the bathroom, close the door, and sit there for a few minutes.

What Should Organizations Do?

Organizations should consider incorporating meditation training in their employee wellness programs. Employees who meditate regularly experience greater job satisfaction, improved job performance, are more alert and active, self confident, less irritable, more cooperative with others, and enjoy a greater level of accomplishment.

Organizations also need to be sensitive to the fact that personal problems (divorce, illness in the family, death of a loved one, or other trauma) can temporarily influence the workplace behavior of otherwise good employees. Giving leaves of absence or personals days off with pay to manage such situations can help to reduce the employee stress level.

My Personal Belief

In my view, relaxation and meditation training can be particularly helpful in coping with difficult life or workplace issues. It has been documented in a variety of research settings that meditation and prayer can lead to significant decreases in psychological distress, health complaints, insomnia, and smoking. There is a lot of good information available on stress management in the research literature as well as in popular magazines, and of course on the Internet. Like everything else, one has to be an intelligent consumer of knowledge and use common sense.

Strive and thrive! Do well, and be the best that you can be and leave the rest to the higher power.

Good luck!