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can't I just relax in front of the telly? or read a book?
You can, and that is relaxing, but it’s like comparing sleep with reading. Both are relaxing (if the sleep is good – and indeed the book!), but more often than not, sleep will be a deeper state of relaxation than watching telly, gardening, or other things people find relaxing. The thing to say here is this; part of yogic relaxation’s technical objective is withdrawing energy from the muscles and senses. This energy goes back with the consciousness towards the central nervous system, then towards the brain, and then close or back into the soul (the source of thought, emotion, and energy). Thus, if the eyes are operating (i.e. reading, watching telly) or the muscles (i.e. gardening), this deep retraction of energy to its source cannot happen. Therefore the level of relaxation is compromised.