Eliza Hofman, Therapeutic Yoga Teacher
As an emerging adult, you expend a lot of energy on output. Completing schoolwork and launching a career, learning to navigate the world of adult responsibilities, and building deep meaningful relationships all require focus, persistence, and emotional capital. These converging transitions can lead to stress and burnout in all emerging adults but are especially overwhelming for those who also struggle with depression, anxiety, or other emotional challenges. Even in times that should be relaxing, such as the weekend or vacation, you might still find that your mind will not stop racing and you can’t unplug. This active state of mind results in constantly feeling depleted. In the worst cases, you might engage in destructive behaviors such as drinking, using drugs, or other forms of self-harming to cope with the exhaustion and frustration that follows such a constant state of effort.
An ability to refill our energy and feel full and nurtured is key to achieving success and happiness in life, and a great way to realize this state is through deep relaxation. Rarely, though, do we learn how to relax. We certainly learn how to distract ourselves; video games, movies, and surfing the internet are activities that we might turn to when we want to avoid work. We might think we are relaxing, but true relaxation consists of much more than simply “chilling out” or not working. Relaxation is a skill, as requiring and deserving of practice as learning how to ride a bike or making an omelet. In good news, just as with any other skill, you will get better at relaxation and it will come more easily to you the more you practice it.
In yoga we call the practice of relaxation “svasana.” This Sanskrit word translates to “corpse pose” and suggests that when we truly relax, we allow those parts of our lives that no longer serve us to die away and we arise to a truer version of ourselves. Svasana means bringing yourself to the edge between waking and sleeping, where your body is completely relaxed, your mind is quiet, but you maintain your awareness and ability to witness yourself. You are not asleep, but your focus is completely internal. To practice svasana, find a comfortable position on your back; support yourself with pillows and blankets so you are warm and still, and set a timer for ten minutes. Begin by taking a few slow breaths, and with every exhale, relax the physical tension in your body. After a little while, switch your focus from your body to your mind, and with every exhale, feel yourself breathing out your thoughts. Become empty. For the remainder of the time, simply observe, and if any physical or mental tension returns, breathe it out. Notice how you feel when the time is up. Remember that relaxation is a practice, and there is no right or wrong way to feel afterwards. Try it again the next day.
Through true relaxation you can eventually expect to experience rest, peace, rejuvenation, energy, and positivity. Keep practicing, breathe, and stay grounded.