I have borrowed techniques from yoga for the basic relaxation course. Perhaps to repay that secular theft from an established and venerated religion would not be out of place now.
Yoga is an integral part of Hinduism, its very name deriving from the ‘yoke’ that binds two together. The two in this case are the individual self and the universal self. Hinduism, like most Oriental religions, is permeated with sub-cults and disciplines, the apparent eccentricities of which have led to many misunderstandings as to its fundamental nature. The most straightforward (from our point of view) components of Hindu yoga are asana, with its concentration on physical postures, and pranayama, which involves controlled breathing similar to the pendulum breathing we have used so extensively. Yoga relaxation or meditation works on an easily recognizable principle which may be stated thus. If you control one automatic (autonomic) body mechanism – say, breathing – then other similarly automatically- (autonomically) controlled body functions will also become capable of control-for example, the level of the blood pressure, the heart rate, the activity of the digestive system, and so on.
The Hindu religion also has some very important things to say on the loss of peace of mind that is associated with many psychosomatic conditions. It directs its disciples to gain insight into the nature of the self and its relation to its environment, and to learn to rebuild loss of self esteem. It warns against the folly of becoming too bound, or attached, to persons, systems and objects within the world, and warns of the feelings of hatred that can spring so easily from a lack of gratification received from such persons, systems or objects.
Having mastered the relaxation response’s facility for restoring the body, the Hindu then moves on towards achieving samocha, which may be thought of as a state of constant and deep peace experienced against a backdrop of relaxed body functioning and an acceptable everyday life.
Unfortunately yoga is associated with as many penny-catching cults as any other of the healing faiths. The fact that your local ‘yoga class’ may be held in a church hall or local community centre is no guarantee of its authenticity, or even that it may help you with self mastery. If, however, you can seek out and feel happy with a good teacher then yoga relaxation and Hindu principles should bring you health and a sense of well-being.