Relaxation increases the capacity to deal with stress by triggering the release of endorphins, which results in a sense of wellbeing. Following are three examples of relaxation exercises. You might try each of these and then explore Mindfulness and Meditation exercises to determine what works best for you.
THE QUIETING RESPONSE -- 10 STEPS
- Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
- Do quiet, easy deep breathing for 30-40 seconds.
- Lift your arms slowly above your head and take a deep breath. Lower arms to chair and breathe out, going completely limp. Hold arms as if praying. Take a deep breath and press arms together until arms tremble. Breathe out and go completely limp. Take prayer position with hands about three inches apart. Notice the flow of warmth between your hands. Take a deep breath, bring arms to your sides, and relax.
- Imagine sunlight on top of your head.
- Imagine your body as a hollow bottle.
- Let the warm sunlight slowly fill this bottle, beginning with your toes and feet. Fill your legs, abdomen, etc.
- When heavy warmth reaches your shoulders, let it flow into arms, hands, and fingers.
- Notice your breathing -- slow, regular, easy, calm.
- With eyes still closed focus just beyond the tip of your nose. Let the sunlight on your head change to the misty light of a winter moon. Repeat the phrase: "Cool, alert mind; warm, heavy body."
- Do the daily review. Make your mind like a blank movie screen and play backwards the events of your day. Absorb these passively and do not react positively or negatively.
THE PROCESS OF MEDITATION
- Choose a quiet spot where you will not be disturbed by other people, phone, pets, etc. YOU MUST GIVE YOURSELF SPACE. (Shut out as much auditory noise as possible.)
RULE: DO NOT DISTURB UNLESS THERE IS BLOOD INVOLVED.
- Sit in a comfortable position. (Sitting is preferred because people tend to fall asleep lying down.)
- Close your eyes. (It is easier to concentrate and shut out extraneous visual "noise".)
- Relax muscles sequentially from head to feet. Become aware of each part of your body in succession, letting go of as much as you can after each exhale (in, "health;" out, "relax," "let go," etc.). Sigh of Relief . . . let your body "go with the flow" . . . be cooperative with gravity. Begin with your forehead . . . become aware of tension as you breathe in . . . let go of obvious tension as you breathe out. Imagine breathing air into your forehead and let the air carry out tension with it as you exhale. Go through your entire body this way: Eyes, jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, chest, upper back, middle back, midriff, lower back, belly, pelvis, buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet. (Need only take 1-2 minutes.)
- Become aware of your breathing, simply noticing how the breath goes in and out, without trying to control it in any way.
- Repeat your focus word silently in time to your breathing. Listen to your breath and imagine that it sounds like your focus word. (Don't get hung up on whether your word is the "right" word; just pick a word and use it.)
- Don't worry about how you're doing. Label criticism as "judging." Criticism creates a shift from meditation to anxiety. Practice letting go and shift back to present awareness. Q. "I can't stop my mind from wandering." A. "Fine, don't try. Just practice bringing it back to focus on breath and your word whenever you notice yourself wandering - without criticism."
- Practice at least once a day for 10-20 minutes. In meditation, there are two goals. First is the session itself. The second is for relaxation to become easier and more deeply peaceful with repeated practice, so that you are more able to call on the relaxation response at will in any situation.
Quiet the body: Take 10 to 20 seconds at the 3 periods (. . . ). Visualize, imagine, and feel the relaxation of each part of the body as you silently repeat the phrases; then just "let it happen."
I feel quite quiet. . . I am beginning to feel quite relaxed. . . My feet feel heavy, heavy and relaxed. . . My ankles, my knees, and my hips feel heavy, relaxed and comfortable. . . The whole central part of my body feels relaxed and quiet. . . My hands, my arms, and my shoulders feel heavy, relaxed, and comfortable. . . My neck, my jaws, and my forehead feel relaxed; they feel comfortable and smooth. . . My whole body feels quiet, comfortable, and relaxed. . .
Calm the emotions: As you remain comfortable and relaxed, use the following phrases in the same manner as above, visualizing, imagining and feeling the warmth.
My arms and hands are heavy and warm. . . I feel quite quiet. . . My arms and hands are relaxed, relaxed and warm. . . My hands are warm. . . Warmth is flowing into my hands, they are warm, warm. . . My hands are warm, relaxed and warm.
Still the mind and turn attention inward: On each phrase imagine and feel the quietness and the withdrawal of the attention inward.
I feel quite quiet. . . My mind is quiet. . . I withdraw my thoughts from the surrounding and I feel serene and still. . . Deep within myself I can visualize and experience myself as relaxed, comfortable and still. . . I am alert but in an easy, quiet, inward-turned way. . . My mind is calm and quiet. . . I feel an inward quietness. . .
Maintain the inward quietness for about two minutes. Reactivate by taking five slow, full breaths. Stretch and feel energy flowing through your body.