Ever wonder what the biggest problem in life really is? Yes, it’s stress! And the remedy? Profound dynamic relaxation. This is a true story: I met John at a stress-release workshop I was teaching in Scotland. He was a schoolteacher in a run-down area of Glasgow. As if that wasn’t hard enough, he was a history teacher, a subject that most of his pupils were completely uninterested in—perhaps the history of rap music but certainly not of kings and queens! Teaching had become a source of immense stress; John would regularly lose his temper and was planning to quit. I saw him again a year later at a follow-up workshop. John looked refreshed and radiant, so I fully expected to hear that he’d gotten a different job. Instead, he told me that he’d become head of the department. The difference? John had done nothing other than Yoga Nidra, the relaxation practice this book teaches you, and he did it every morning before going to school. This had led to a state of deep acceptance and mindful relaxation. As a result, both his attitude and approach at work had radically improved. Being mindfully relaxed is the ultimate life-changing gift we can give ourselves.

Ever since the beginning of time we have encountered stressful situations, starting with cavemen who had to hunt for food and the resulting fight-or flight dilemma when confronted with wild animals. The stress-producing factors may be different now but they have the same effect. It’s quite amazing to me that after thousands of years we still haven’t figured out how to relax!

Unless we can look at stressful difficulties with mindful awareness then all we really do is create more stress; a tense mind creates greater tension, while a calm and clear mind creates clarity and positivity. When we are stressed everything becomes an irritation, no matter how well intended. Friendships are lost and families broken as achievements and possessions become more important than kindness and caring.

We can’t hide from stress, but we often take being stressed for granted without doing anything about it until it becomes unmanageable. We know what we have to do, but believe that relaxation can be accomplished by indulging in mindless and distracting activities. At times this is true. But more often it’s an escape from our inability to cope in a world of conflicting ideas, pressures and prejudices. As the anxiety becomes too much to handle we begin to look outside ourselves for help, such as to alcohol, drugs, or therapy.

Stress throws us into regrets of the past and fears of the future and so we lose the ability to be in the present moment. Meanwhile, guilt, shame and blame create unimaginable scenarios, as the ego-mind is constantly preoccupied with itself. Such is our “normal” state of being!

You may need to ask yourself: Do I get upset or angry when matters don’t go as planned? Do I need to be in control, or can I allow events to take their natural course? Do I always think I am right and that others must be wrong? Am I able to see things as they are without prejudice or bias? Do I bear grudges and hold onto things or can I let go and move on? These are important issues to look at honestly in order to become more tolerant, kind, and easeful.

Confusion and misunderstanding make us desperate for change, but we don’t know how to bring about the transformation we yearn for. So we change the superficial things, like our hairstyle or clothes. We may even have a facelift or hair transplant. All we want is to be wanted! But if we change our lives from within then our outer self will also transform. Being at ease has a hugely positive effect on our looks, health, on others, and the world we live in. What more could we want?

Relaxation and Mindfulness

Relaxation is relatively simple, yet it is highly misunderstood; we think: “If I do this or that I will relax and then I will be better.” But our relaxation will stay both superficial and temporary if we don’t bring mindful awareness to it. Mindfulness means paying attention to something, focusing awareness on it, and awakening that awareness in our whole being. When we are mindfully relaxed we are consciously aware of letting go on a deeper, long-lasting and profound level.

The practice of relaxation I teach is Yoga Nidra, which comes from the ancient yoga sutras. The long-lasting effect of Yoga Nidra is a mindful relaxation that permeates our lives, influencing our every thought, word and action. Mindfulness enables us to let go of repetition and compulsiveness. We begin to respond confidently rather than mindlessly reacting, develop more positive attitudes and make clearer choices. Circumstances are neither good or bad; it is our response that makes them either positive or negative. Change the response and we change our world.

To SAVE 25% on The Art of Mindful Relaxation: The Heart of Yoga Nidra and all other books from Ixia Press, click here and use code WXA6 at checkout.

Author's Bio: 

--An excerpt from The Art of Mindful Relaxation: The Heart of Yoga Nidra, © 2018 by Ed Shaprio, published by Ixia Press, an imprint of Dover Publications, August 2018.