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Relaxation Techniques
by Lizzie March 22nd 2009, 07:00 PM

The benefits of relaxation techniques:

Practicing relaxation techniques can improve how you physically respond to stress by:
• Slowing your heart rate
• Lowering blood pressure
• Slowing your breathing rate
• Reducing the need for oxygen
• Increasing blood flow to major muscles
• Reducing muscle tension
You may also gain these overall health and lifestyle benefits from relaxation techniques:
• Fewer physical symptoms, such as headaches and back pain
• Fewer emotional responses, such as anger and frustration
• More energy
• Improved concentration
• Greater ability to handle problems
• More efficiency in daily activities

Getting the most out of your relaxation practice:

Set aside time in your daily schedule. The best way to start and maintain a relaxation practice is by incorporating it into your daily routine. Schedule a set time either once or twice a day for your practice. You may find that it’s easier to stick with your practice if you do it first thing in the morning, before other tasks and responsibilities get in the way.
Don’t practice when you’re sleepy. These techniques can relax you so much that they can make you very sleepy, especially if it’s close to bedtime. You will get the most out of these techniques if you practice when you’re fully awake and alert.
Choose a technique that appeals to you. There is no single relaxation technique that is best. When choosing a relaxation technique, consider your specific needs, preferences, and fitness level. The right relaxation technique is the one that resonates with you and fits your lifestyle.

Types of Relaxation Techniques:

Autogenic relaxation
Autogenic means something that comes from within you. In this technique, you use both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress. You repeat words or suggestions in your mind to help you relax and reduce muscle tension. You may imagine a peaceful place and then focus on controlled, relaxing breathing, slowing your heart rate, or different physical sensations, such as relaxing each arm or leg one by one.

Progressive muscle relaxation.
In this technique, you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group. This helps you focus on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation, and you become more aware of physical sensations. You may choose to start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. Tense your muscles for at least five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.

Visualization
In this technique, you form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming place or situation. Try to use as many senses as you can, including smells, sights, sounds and textures. If you imagine relaxing at the ocean, for instance, think about the warmth of the sun, the sound of crashing waves, the feel of the grains of sand and the smell of salt water. You may want to close your eyes, sit in a quiet spot and loosen any tight clothing.

Focusing
Select a small personal object that you like a great deal. It might be a jeweled pin or a simple flower from your garden. Focus all your attention on this object as you inhale and exhale slowly and deeply for one to two minutes. While you are doing this exercise, try not to let any other thoughts or feelings enter your mind. If they do, just return your attention to the object. At the end of this exercise you will probably feel more peaceful and calmer. Any tension or nervousness that you were feeling upon starting the exercise should be diminished.

Meditation
• Sit or lie in a comfortable position.
• Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Let your breathing be slow and relaxed.
• Focus all your attention on your breathing. Notice the movement of your chest and abdomen in and out.
• Block out all other thoughts, feelings, and sensations. If you feel your attention wandering, bring it back to your breathing.
• As you inhale, say the word "peace" to yourself, and as you exhale, say the word "calm." Draw out the pronunciation of the word so that it lasts for the entire breath. The word "peace" sounds like p-e-e-a-a-a-c-c-c-e-e-e. The word "calm" sounds like: c-a-a-a-l-l-l-l-m-m-m. Repeating these words as you breathe will help you to concentrate.
• Continue this exercise until you feel very relaxed.

Oak Tree Meditation
• Sit in a comfortable position, your arms resting at your sides.
• Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Let your breathing be slow and relaxed.
• See your body as a strong oak tree. Your body is solid like the wide, brown trunk of the tree. Imagine sturdy roots growing from your legs and going down deeply into the earth, anchoring your body. You feel solid and strong, able to handle any stress.
• When upsetting thoughts or situations occur, visualize your body remaining grounded like the oak tree. Feel the strength and stability in your arms and legs.
• You feel confident and relaxed, able to handle any situation.

Grounding Cord Meditation
• Sit in a comfortable position, your arms resting comfortably at your sides.
• Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Let your breathing be slow and relaxed.
• Imagine a thick wide cord attaching itself to the base of your spine. This is your grounding cord. It can be a thick piece of rope, a tree trunk, or any other material that feels strong and stable. Make sure your cord is wide and sturdy enough. Then imagine a thick metal hook attaching itself to the end of your cord.
• Now visualize your grounding cord dropping down two hundred feet below the earth and hooking on to the solid bedrock below the earth.
• Continue to breathe deeply and notice the sense of peace and stability that your grounding cord can bring you.
• Replace the cord with a new one each day or whenever you feel your emotions getting out of control.
Discovering Muscle Tension
• Lie on your back in a comfortable position. Allow your arms to rest at your sides, palms down, on the surface next to you.
• Raise just the right hand and arm and hold it elevated for 15 seconds.
• Notice if your forearm feels tight and tense or if the muscles are soft and pliable.
• Let your hand and arm drop down and relax. The arm muscles will relax too.
• As you lie still, notice any other parts of your body that feel tense, muscles that feel tight and sore. You may notice a constant dull aching in certain muscles.

Release of Muscle Tension and Anxiety
• Lie in a comfortable position. Allow your arms to rest at your sides, palms down. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply with your eyes closed.
• Become aware of your feet, ankles, and legs. Notice if these parts of your body have any muscle tension or tightness. If so, how does the tense part of your body feel? Is it viselike, knotted, cold, numb? Do you notice any strong feelings, such as hurt, upset, or anger, in that part of your body? Breathe into that part of your body until you feel it relax. Release any anxious feelings with your breathing, continuing until they begin to decrease in intensity and fade.
• Next, move your awareness into your hips, pelvis, and lower back. Note any tension there. Notice any anxious feelings located in that part of your body. Breathe into your hips and pelvis until you feel them relax. Release any negative emotions as you breathe in and out
• Focus on your abdomen and chest. Notice any anxious feelings located in this area and let them drop away as you breathe in and out. Continue to release any upsetting feelings located in your abdomen or chest.
• Finally, focus on your head, neck, arms, and hands. Note any tension in this area and release it. With your breathing; release any negative feelings blocked in this area until you can't feel them anymore.
• When you have finished releasing tension throughout the body, continue deep breathing and relaxing for another minute or two. At the end of this exercise, you should feel lighter and more energized.

Shrinking Stress
• Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Breathe slowly and deeply.
• Visualize a situation, person, or even a belief (such as, "I'm afraid of the dark" or "I don't want to give that public speech") that makes you feel anxious and tense.
• As you do this, you might see a person's face, a place you're afraid to go, or simply a dark cloud. Where do you see this stressful picture? Is it above you, to one side, or in front of you? How does it look? Is it big or little, dark or light? Does it have certain colors?
• Now slowly begin to shrink the stressful picture. Continue to see the stressful picture shrinking until it is so small that it can literally be held in the palm of your hand. Hold your hand out in front of you, and place the picture in the palm of your hand.
• If the stressor has a characteristic sound (like a voice or traffic noise), hear it getting tiny and soft. As it continues to shrink, its voice or sounds become almost inaudible.
• Now the stressful picture is so small it can fit on your second finger. Watch it shrink from there until it finally turns into a little dot and disappears.
• Often this exercise causes feelings of amusement, as well as relaxation, as the feared stressor shrinks, gets less intimidating, and finally disappears.

Erasing Stress
• Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Breathe slowly and deeply.
• Visualize a situation, a person, or even a belief (such as, "I'm afraid to go to the shopping mall" or "I'm scared to mix with other people at parties") that causes you to feel anxious and fearful.
• As you do this you might see a specific person, an actual place, or simply shapes and colors. Where do you see this stressful picture? Is it below you, to the side, in front of you? How does it look? Is it big or little, dark or light, or does it have a specific color?
• Imagine that a large eraser, like the kind used to erase chalk marks, has just floated into your hand. Actually feel and see the eraser in your hand. Take the eraser and begin to rub it over the area where the stressful picture is located. As the eraser rubs out the stressful picture it fades, shrinks, and finally disappears. When you can no longer see the stressful picture, simply continue to focus on your deep breathing for another minute, inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply.

Last edited by Rob; July 28th 2012 at 02:12 PM.
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