Enabling the process of effective relaxation.
I personal believe that the greatest achievement would be for an individual to truly experience relaxation for themselves. To be able to use each experience as a method to release and let go physically with their body, and to allow the mind to release into a state of just being. Through relaxation a person  can achieve a sense of control over stress and they way in which it can be dealt with.

Achieving a sense of release in which the individaul can escape from everyday pressure and simply let go. This over time will hopefully help them to achieve a better sense of balance and grounding. It may take time for them to achieve this but if they experience the process, it will help them be able to deal with stress outside of the yoga class, and hopefully able them to lead a life with less tension and a greater sense of well being.

As a facilitator, it is my role to help and guide the individual through the process of relaxation. Helping them to feel the benefits of relaxation not just inside the class but being able to take that feeling outside the class also. The main responsibility would also be to provide them with a safe environment and also enabling them to remain reassured that they are in safe hands. This involves trust, in order for them to be able to experience relaxation fully.

 It is my role as the facilitator also to safely guide the individual into the relaxation, through the appropriate method or technique, allow them to enjoy being there, and finally guiding them slowly back out of it, grounded and prepared to go back into the real world! Also to know when to allow silence and when to speak, being aware of how the students are, and that they are not sleeping or uncomfortable, ensuring that they have a pleasant experience.

My most effective experiences of relaxation have always been on yoga retreats.

The most memorable one being in Costa Rica. We were actually outside on a yoga deck, at the edge of the jungle, not far from the sea. It began at as the sun was setting and so the light was nice and subdued, with the most beautiful warm glow, and candles were lit around where we were lying. Blankets had been provided not only to keep us warm, but also acting as a shield against hungry insects. The teacher was someone I had only met through this retreat, but had got to know very well over the week. He gently led us through a practice which involved a combination of some of the many relaxation techniques. We were led on a journey around the body. Starting with the top of the head, forehead...shoulders, arm, fingers etc. etc., leading to the individual toes on the feet. We had to visualise a light, a sense of energy which travelled with our minds to these various parts of the body, which I still remember to this day, that I could actually feel. We were surrounded by the sounds of nature, the sounds of the jungle, the animals, the insects, the rhythm of the ocean and her waves. The air was so clean and pure, the smells of the jungle were so organic.

It was a group of about 25, lying together fairly close, and I remember feeling so secure within their company, in fact I hadn't`t even thought about the dangers of predators and the like until writing this! What I experienced is hard to describe in words, but was almost like another sense of being or consciousness. I remember having completely awareness of the teacher?s voice, the surroundings, the environment and my own body, but on a much deeper level. More as an observer like I was me, but also someone else. After being brought back to reality I remember just sitting and staring at the ocean in the moonlight surrounded by a circle of candles and experiencing a magical sense of bliss and contentment, later to sleep that night like I have never slept before!

What is important for us to take into account here, is the right environment, the senses of the body, the quality of the air and the overall sense of security and belonging within a group or place which enables the individual to feel safe within the hands of someone else but also feel in complete control. Reflecting on that experience has also made me see that an experience of deep relaxation and the ability to let go completely will not happen instantly, or overnight. I also realise that every individual`s experience of relaxation is different, and that taken into account, it is hard to create the perfect environment and settings for a group. As what might be relaxing for one person may cause another person to stress. I personally love lying in he sun on the beach to feel completely relaxed, but I also realise that this for many other people could be torture! Therefore creating a neutral environment , almost like a blank canvas would hopefully be the best option when helping to experience relaxation.

A safe environment for me would be somewhere with the knowledge that I am safe from harm. In a place surrounded by people that I can trust and feel secure being around. With the inside knowledge that if anything was to happen that it would be dealt with in an official, sensible and confidential manner. This kind of safety is important as it provides a blanket of reassurance within a person to ensure peace of mind when experiencing relaxation. It also means that the is less reason for the mind to become distracted during the process and experience of relaxation.

Step by step process  for facilitating relaxation.

I would first ensure that the individulas were comfortable to allow for the body to be able to relax, and then gently encourage for the eyes to close, to avoid visual distraction. Then to bring awareness to the body by tensing and relaxing, focusing the mind on different body parts. I would then continue to work with calming the mind by bringing it to focus on the breath. This could be done by firstly observing the movement of the breath, or the sound of the breath, which would help to naturally slow the breath down, leading into relaxation. Leaving the student to continue the observances for themselves for a while.

To gently bring the person back, I would ask them to observe or note the changes that they can feel now compared to when they started gently bringing awareness to the body. Encouraging deeper inhalations gradually bringing movement back into the body, starting with the fingers and toes, leading to gentle stretches and leading to lying in the recovery position for a few breaths, before coming up to sit and opening the eyes...

I also try and use several relaxation techniques with most classes to encourage different experiences. Such as focusing on sounds outside the room, and then inside the room, and then leading to the sound of the breath and trying to quieten the breath as much as possible, softer and softer, promoting stillness and also a natural lengthening and deepening of the breath. I feel by starting external and working inside helps the mind to go inside and reconnect with the body and rest the mind away from the external distractions we have to face everyday.

I think to summarise I would be prepared and mindful of the environment, the practice and the students welfare. It is their practice, and I would be there to guide them, and help them experience relaxation.