Many persons have anxiety or tension or can’t sleep because they are wound up or their minds keep going. Yes, medications can help but often the meds are not enough to produce full improvement and also we want to reduce the amount of sedating medication a person takes. That’s where the Relaxation Practice comes in. An effective Relaxation Practice can be an important supplement to other treatments.
The great thing about this Relaxation Practice it can be learned in 10-15 minutes at the most; maybe less.
Most persons can benefit from doing the Relaxation Practice but the persons who will probably benefit the most from it are the ones who have muscular tension, for example, being tense, maybe biting their lips, wringing their hands, tapping their feet, and so on. In doing the practice, the person may realize for the first time how physically wound up he or she has been.
On the other hand, the Practice may not be advisable for:
1. Persons whose minds are filled with negative and anxious thoughts that swell up whenever they are not distracted. Sometimes, such persons may have more of these negative thoughts when they are asked to lie down and relax.
2. Persons (e.g., some who have panic disorder) who are very focused on physical sensations and tend to catastrophize harmless physical sensations. Again, it may not be advisable for some of these persons to have quiet time during which they are encouraged to focus on their bodily sensations.
The principle underlying the Relaxation Practice is that it is not possible to directly relax one’s mind. However, if we can relax the body, the mind gets relaxed indirectly. The basics of the particular form of Relaxation Practice are derived from the Indian practice of Yoga.
Two key points about the name “Relaxation Practice” should be kept in mind. Firstly, it is
Firstly, it is muscular relaxation that we are aiming for. The goal is to make the body very limp and loose. Secondly, that it takes practice to be able to achieve deeper and deeper levels of muscular relaxation and to be able to quickly go into
Secondly, it takes practice to be able to achieve deeper and deeper levels of muscular relaxation and to be able to quickly go into state of muscular relaxation when you are going about your daily business.
Difficulty sleeping and relaxation practice
1. There is no point in“trying to sleep”. There is no such thing! Sleep is the absence of trying to do anything.
2. Instead, we should aim to just “lie down and rest” at night.
3. Even though it is not the same as sleep, getting deep rest is very helpful.
4. The Relaxation practice helps us with several things:
– to leave all our muscles “super loose”
– to distract us and reduce the excessive, unproductive thoughts that seem to start up when we lie down at night; and
– to gradually calm both body and mind.
5. That we call it a “practice” for a reason—as we keep doing the practice, we can expect to be able to go into deeper and deeper states of physical and mental rest.
• Lie down on a hard surface, but not so hard that it causes pain or discomfort. An example of an appropriate surface would be a comforter on a carpet.
• Loose, comfortable clothing
• Lie on your back, hands by side, palm up
• Switch your phone off so as to not be startled if it rings
• Darken the room to the extent possible
The Practice can be divided into FOUR steps. First, you should practice only the first three steps. After a couple of weeks, you can add in the fourth step.
Step 1: Sigh and leave body loose. Repeat 2 to 3 times. This alone will make the body more relaxed and loose than earlier.
Step 2: Mentally go over entire body, part by part, making it loose and relaxed. Start with the toes, then the leg, then the thighs, the back, the shoulders, the arms, the hands, the neck, the scalp, and finally the face. Some persons will find it helpful to move the body part a little (e.g., wiggling the toes) to help the mind pay attention to it. If the face is loose, the jaw will drop open and that is good. If necessary, rub the face and the eyes in circular to help them to become loose.
Step 3: Some types of visualization can help you to go into an even deeper state of physical relaxation. One helpful technique is to imagine that if someone lifted your arm or your leg and let it drop, it would just flop down. Another helpful thing is to feel that your body is very, very heavy (like lead), so that you can feel it pressing into the ground, even slightly sinking into the ground. Yet another one is to feel as if your body is being slowly immersed, feet first, into pleasantly hot water. Feel the water slowly moving up your legs and your body.
Notice how good it feels to be so loose and limp! It is a wonderful, sensuous feeling.
[Skip Step 4 until you are comfortable with Steps 1 to 3]
Step 4: This is the mental component that tops off the Practice. Think about breath going in and out at the level of the nostrils (NOT the chest going up and down). Can you feel your breath at your nostrils? Be a passive observer. You are not trying to breathe deeply, etc. You are only observing your natural breathing. Other thoughts will definitely occur to you, just let them drift away and bring thoughts back to the breathing at the nostrils. This is like watching clouds (your thoughts) and letting them drift by.
Ending: Get up slowly and gradually to avoid shocking the body. Start by wiggling your toes and fingers, then stretching, then turning onto your side and stretching. Cover your eyes with your hand and slowly open your eyes. Finally, rise up slowly.
After the Practice
Take some of this physical looseness with you as you go about your daily activities
When you have a minute, try to sigh and recapture some of that physical relaxation. Do mini sessions of one to five minutes when you have a chance or when you notice that you are tense.
Ideally, you will become more physically relaxed throughout the day.
When and how to do the Practice
Ideally do this exercise for about 15 minutes twice a day. Also, you can do an extra session if you are stressed, anxious, or tired due to any reason.
You can also use this Practice to help you relax and go to sleep but that is not the primary purpose because during the day we want you to be physically relaxed but awake.
If you do this Practice daily for at least two weeks, please do let me know whether or not it was helpful. Good luck!
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Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended for general educational purposes only. It is NOT intended as a substitute for medical advice. Patients must ask the clinicians treating them, Dr. Mago or others, for advice specific to their situation.