Learning how to relax is an essential skill in today’s fast paced world. Luckily there are numerous easy techniques that one can employ which are easy, free, and safe.
In general these techniques involve focusing your attention on something calming and increasing awareness in your body. As you learn to relax, you become more aware of the body’s stress response, and can make a conscious effort to use relaxation techniques to prevent stress from spiralling out of control.
Here are three major types of relaxation techniques:
- Autogenic relaxation – autogenic meaning ‘self generating,’ this technique involves using visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress. You repeat words or suggestion in your mind to help you relax. You may imagine a peaceful place. You focus on your breath, slowing your heart rate. Or you may centre your attention on different body parts, relaxing each in turn.
- Progressive muscle relaxation – this technique focuses on tensing momentarily, then thoroughly relaxing each muscle group. This teaches the body’s memory the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. Often you start at your toes and progressively work your way up to your neck and head.
- Visualization – taking mental visual journeys to peaceful, calming places and situations is the key to this technique. During visualization use as many senses as you can, including smell, sight, sound and touch.
I’ve used all three of these during corpse pose (savasana) or final relaxation. Kids love them and always ask to do ‘that sleeping thing’ again. Often adults come to yoga class specifically for the last 10 minutes when they finally get to lie down and do nothing.
These are easy skills to teach and regular relaxation sessions will lead to slowing your heart rate, lowering blood pressure, reducing muscle tension and chronic pain, improving concentration, and boosting confidence to handle problems.
So sit quietly & put your head down or lie on the floor and take a mental and physical five minute vacation. It’s the best thing you’ll do all day!