Relaxation and depletion are very different, yet few yoga practitioners seem to know the difference. Virtually every week I encounter yoga students who speak longingly of their relaxing practice, though when I see their eyes at the close of their relaxing practice, I see a flatness and dullness that suggestions depletion.
In discussing relaxation and depletion, we’re squarely in the realm of subjectivity. I don’t think we’re going to find a blood test or fMRI scan that verifies a difference between these qualities, though I think we can all tell the difference.
When a family member or close friend isn’t feeling well, we generally can see the depletion and fatigue in their eyes. Sometimes we can see the change before the friend or family member even reports feeling ill or under the weather! This seeing is a transferable skill, and can be very useful for a yoga teacher to cultivate through practice (the subject of another blog entry).
Just because a given yoga technique is reputed to be relaxing doesn’t mean that it isn’t depleting. And what’s true for one person isn’t necessarily true for everyone! I’ve seen some people flop over a bolster for a long time and come out of the supported pose looking refreshed, while the person next to them looks absolutely depleted. Knowing the difference between relaxation and depletion is an essential skill for yoga practitioners and teachers.
What bodily sensations correspond to relaxing? What bodily sensations arise while doing a supposedly relaxing practice that turns out to be depleting?