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Relaxation Techniques I
Relaxation techniques often can help people with sleep problems get a good night’s sleep. Several relaxation techniques are listed below; click on any of the links to learn more.
This technique is often most useful when you tape the instructions beforehand. You can tape these instructions, reading them slowly and leaving a short pause after each one.
This one may seem like a bit of a contradiction to the previous one, but by alternately tensing and relaxing your toes, you actually draw tension from the rest of the body. Try it!
By concentrating on our breathing, deep breathing allows the rest of our body to relax itself. Deep breathing is a great way to relax the body and get everything into synchrony. Relaxation breathing is an important part of yoga and martial arts for this reason.
In this technique, the goal is to visualize yourself in a peaceful setting.
Another Relaxation Technique
Begin each session as follows:
Now begin the "Getting Loose" exercise for each part of your body, as follows:
Focus your relaxed feelings
Now begin to focus this relaxation on your event. Tell yourself: 'When I am running and I begin to feel tension gripping some muscles, I will be able to tell those muscles: "Let go", saying "Let go " will recall the relaxed feelings I feel now and will release the tension from those muscles.'
Having completed the "Getting Loose" exercises remain lying on your back. Carry out the "Breathing Easy" exercise for 10 minutes, as follows:
Don't worry if the sequence isn't exact or the cadence perfect. It may seem a bit difficult to stay with at first, but just keep going. The important thing is to establish the slow relaxed breathing rate. After the ten cycles, your breathing rate will be automatically slower and you can dispense with the "one and two and three and four" cadence.
Now do as follows:
You will soon begin to feel a calm, thoroughly pleasurable feeling - some say a warmth radiating from your chest throughout your body
Now let yourself breathe normally and tell yourself relaxing phrases: 'I feel very relaxed ... All the tension is going out of me as I exhale and good feelings are coming into me as I inhale ... When I am playing my sport, I will be able to take a few deep breaths and by saying, "Easy " will be able to tell myself to relax whenever I feel overly tense ... When I'm playing, I will recall the good feelings I am experiencing now and they will automatically return to me ' Imagine all this happening as you say it to yourself.
Now do as follows:
Now let your breathing go naturally, and pay attention to the pleasant feelings in your body. Repeat the same encouraging phrases to yourself that you did earlier. Listen to the sound of your own breath coming in and out. You will notice that the breathing is slow and deep without you having to make it that way. The exhaling will last longer - as long as an eight-count, perhaps.
Continue to do the breathing exercises for the rest of the session, each time alternating the ten cycles of inhale-hold-exhale with the mental encouragement. After the last cycle of ten, just let yourself enjoy the feeling for a minute.
Tell yourself for the rest of the day I will recall these sensations every time I tell myself 'Easy'
Stress Relief: Yoga, Meditation, and Other Relaxation Techniques
Whenever we encounter a stressful event, our bodies undergo a series of hormonal and biochemical changes that put as in ‘alarm mode.’ Our heart rate increases, adrenaline rushes through our blood stream, and our digestive and immune systems temporarily shut down. If the stressors continue and we stay on high alert for a prolonged period of time, we experience exhaustion and burn out. None of us can avoid stress, but we can return to a state of balance and regulation through a variety of means: exercise, humor, play, music, prayer or meditation. These activities provide calming and relaxing sensory input for stress relief and can be selected according to lifestyle and preference.
Yoga is a broad term for a series of practices that were developed over several millennia to bring practitioners into a state of wholeness and completeness. The sanskrit word yoga, which literally means ‘to unite,’ has many branches, including Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga consists of concentration techniques, breathing exercises, dietary guidelines, and a series of stationary or moving poses—also called asanas. These body movements are what we commonly refer to today when we use the word ‘yoga.’
Yoga postures balance the different systems of the body, including the central nervous system, the endocrine (or glandular) system, and the digestive system. By slowing down the mental activity, and by gently stretching the body and massaging the internal organs, yoga creates a climate of dynamic peacefulness within. This relaxing and rejuvenating experience momentarily removes us from involvement with the stressors in our lives—our “to-do” lists, unresolved issues from the past, or worries of the future. By practicing yoga on a regular basis, we build up a natural response to stress, and bring the relaxed state more and more into our daily lives.
The health benefits of yoga are tremendous. Feeling better physically counters the effects of stress. Yoga produces the following physical health benefits:
Even more directly related to stress reduction, the mental benefits of Hatha Yoga include:
When beginning a yoga practice it is advisable not to extend yourself beyond what feels comfortable, yet moderately challenging. Always back off on a pose at the first sign of pain. For the best results, it is recommended that you seek qualified instruction when embarking on a yoga routine. The Yoga Alliance provides an international, searchable list of Registered Teachers who hold R.Y.T. (Registered Yoga Teacher) credentials. In lieu of taking classes at yoga studios, instructional CDs and DVDs are readily available online.
The history of meditation goes back even further than that of Hatha Yoga, with its origins beginning around 3,000 B.C.E. Meditation evolved as a way for the ancient spiritual seers—known in India as Rishis—to gain direct knowledge of the nature of the Ultimate Reality. Today, meditation is recognized for its myriad health benefits, and is widely practiced as a way to counteract stress. Meditation brings together all the energies of the mind and focuses them on a chosen point: a word, a sound, a symbol, an image that evokes comfort, or one’s own breathing. It is typically practiced in a quiet, clean environment in a seated posture with the eyes closed.
As with yoga, a regular practice of meditation conditions you to bring the meditative state into your daily life. Holistic-online.com reports that “hormones and other biochemical compounds in the blood indicative of stress tend to decrease during (meditation) practice. These changes also stabilize over time, so that a person is actually less stressed biochemically during daily activity.”
In meditation there is both effort and passive participation. You continually bring the attention back to a chosen focus (effort), and simply become a witness of all that transpires (passive participation)—incorporating thoughts, sensory input, bodily sensations, and external stimulus into the meditation experience. The result of centering the mind in this way is a corresponding calming and relaxing of the body, down to the cellular level, providing stress reduction.
Herbert Benson, M.D. developed a technique called The Relaxation Response, which makes the basic steps of meditation easy to understand and apply. Dr. Benson’s website offers the following steps as a simple way to begin practicing meditation:
1. Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system, such as "one," "peace," "The Lord is my shepherd," "Hail Mary full of grace," or "shalom."
2. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
3. Close your eyes.
4. Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck.
5. Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.
6. Assume a passive attitude. Don't worry about how well you're doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, "Oh well," and gently return to your repetition.
7. Continue for ten to 20 minutes.
8. Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising.
9. Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner. (Mind-Body Medical Institute)
This type of meditation is “portable,” and can be practiced in other activities, such as driving or engaging in work tasks. Mindfulness meditation relieves stress because it relieves preoccupation with the habitual thoughts about the past or the future that perpetuate stress. As mind-body medicine pioneer Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., says, “Meditation helps to keep us from identifying with the ‘movies of the mind.’”
Another meditation technique involves guided imagery or visualizations. In this method, the meditator imagines a scene wherein he or she feels very at peace and is able to let go of all concerns and tensions. In many cases this form of meditation is practiced by listening to guided audio instructions. Visit the online guided meditations section of the references and resources for a sampling of some free guided meditations.
Tai Chi Chuan, or Tai Chi for short, is a self-paced, non-competitive series of slow, flowing body movements (“forms”) that emphasize acute concentration, relaxation, and the conscious circulation of vital energy throughout the body. Though Tai Chi evolved as a martial art sometime in the 13th century, it is primarily practiced today as a way of calming the mind, conditioning the body, and reducing stress. The basis of Tai Chi is the principle of “softness defeating hardness.” Proper stance, which involves lowering the center of gravity (“sinking”), is emphasized over muscular strength as a way to access one’s innate power. Depending on the style of Tai Chi taught, there are between 13 and 108 forms that make up a set when performed continuously. As in meditation, Tai Chi employs focusing on the breath and mindfulness, or maintenance of the mind’s attention in the present moment.
Tai Chi works with the concept of Qi (pronounced “chee”)—a “bio-energy” that moves throughout the body via invisible energy channels called meridians. Qi regulates and maintains health in the various systems of the body by supplying healing energy to the organs. When there are constrictions in the movement of Qi due to injury, a “slumping” posture, or other problems, “dis-ease” or stress results. The muscular movements of Tai Chi remove any blockages and stimulate the Qi to flow freely.
The reported health benefits of Tai Chi include:
Tai Chi can improve balance and minimize falls, and is especially suited for older adults because of its low impact movements. As the Mayo Clinic points out, Tai Chi is a good exercise of choice because:
The International Taoist Tai Chi Society provides a World Directory of Tai Chi practitioners as a way to find qualified instruction in or near the area where you live.
Quick Relaxation Techniques
Source: Saint Josephs's University
As you become more experienced with how the body relaxes, some quick methods of relaxation may be useful. This exercise describes several "quick-release" techniques which can be done almost anywhere.
But first, here are some pointers that apply to all the exercises that follow:
WHOLE BODY TENSION:
Tense everything in your whole body; stay with that tension, and hold it as long as you can without feeling pain.
Open your imagination and focus on your breathing.
With your head level and your body relaxed, pick a spot to focus on (eyes are open at this point).
COUNTING TEN BREATHS BACKWARDS:
Allow yourself to feel passive and indifferent, counting each breath slowly from ten to one.
Try to raise your shoulders up to your eyes.
Rotate your shoulders back, down and around, first one way, then the other.
Stand - feet slightly apart.
Alone in a quiet place, get as comfortable as you can. Then focus on a repeated word or phrase such as "calm" or "let it go," silently reciting it with each exhale. Let other thoughts, feelings and images drift away. Practice for 10 to 20 minute sessions.
ACTIVITIES AND HOBBIES:
A warm bath, good book, or soothing music are excellent ways to counter stress. In fact any hobby which absorbs your undivided attention will help you attain peace of mind.
BBC Relaxation Technique
How to do it
Before starting, choose your location. It should be a quiet place free from draughts and bright light. Loosen clothing and lie or sit down in a comfortable position.
1. Place your hands on either side of your ribcage and close your eyes. Softly inhale through your nose, visualising the air passing through the nostrils and throat and into your lungs. Allow your ribcage to expand by moving your palms outwards.
2. Breathe out through your nose or mouth, gently compressing the sides of your ribcage with your hands to ensure full exhalation.
3. Continue this diaphragmatic breathing for about five minutes. Then lower the palms to your sides or place them in your lap, and begin visualisation while continuing deep, relaxed breathing.
4. Visualise a beautiful place where you feel really relaxed. It may be a garden, beach, mountain or a particular beauty spot. Picture it vividly with all your senses.
5. Picture yourself enjoying this special place and feeling relaxed and happy. Mentally repeat phrases that confirm this, such as "I feel very relaxed" and "I'm content and at peace." Stay in this place as long as you like.
6. When youâ€™re ready, picture yourself leaving and returning to your current environment. Stretch your limbs and slowly open your eyes. Drink a glass of water.
You can return to this place whenever you need to relax. Just close your eyes, breathe deeply and picture the scene anew. With regular practice, relaxation quickly follows.
This article was last medically reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks in September 2005.
Relaxation UK Style
Source: The University of Liverpool
Learning to relax is a skill that requires practice. The more you practice the less time it will take to achieve a state of deep relaxation.Most relaxation exercises involve systematically relaxing all the muscle groups in the body. The advantages of reducing muscular tension in the body are that the physical symptoms of anxiety are reduced, so the heart rate is reduced, blood pressure is lowered and breathing will be slower. If the body is relaxed this helps to promote a feeling of mental calm and thus leads to an enhanced feeling of well-being. If relaxation techniques are practised regularly they can help to prevent feelings of anxiety.
Firstly, if you are feeling relaxed you will be able to cope with difficult situations easier. Secondly, if you learn to release anxiety at the time you feel it, through relaxation, it prevents a build-up of uncomfortable physical symptoms, thus enabling you to cope more effectively.
One of the most effective and simplest techniques for reducing feelings of anxiety is learning controlled breathing.
The following technique will become easier with practice, especially the length of time you can take to release the outgoing breath.
Quick Relaxation Techniques
Exercise when sitting at a desk, during revision or in an exam.
Sit comfortably in a chair or lie in a comfortable position.
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