Monday, January 25, 2010

Learning to Relax

I'm not real good at relaxing.  My mind is always in gear with thoughts of work, things to do at home, new projects, and the list goes on and on.  I often have trouble falling asleep at night because I can't seem to turn off the thought process long enough to allow myself to relax.  When I do fall asleep, I wake up several times during the night and several thoughts will run through my head at a rapid fire rate making the return to sleep equally as difficult.  I rarely feel totally rested in the morning and by mid-day, I'm pretty much toast. 

The Whole Body Action Plan addressed stress and relaxation with some great tips on learning to meditate.  I've been trying to engage in some of these techniques throughout my day, when I truly need a pause to clear my head and calm myself.

If taking up meditation seems daunting, however, start with devoting just 15 minutes a day to this beginner-friendly technique. Once you've made it a habit, deepen your practice with the additional techniques below.

Meditation for Beginners

1.Sit in a chair and allow your body to settle.

2.Slowly scan your body from toe to head, noticing where you feel tight.

3.Bring your attention to your breathing, inhaling and exhaling through the nose but never forcing your breath. Keep your mouth softly closed, your jaw relaxed.

4.Become more and more sensitive to your breath, in tune with where your body moves (and doesn't move) on the inhale and exhale.

5.Allow your awareness of your breath to bring ease to your entire body. Imagine your body moving toward the earth, fully supported.

6.Continue observing your breath moving in and out of your body.

7.At the end of the 15 minutes, breathe deeply three times, allowing the inhale to move down to your toes and the exhale to move up and out of the tops of your shoulders. Pause and then open your eyes.

Meditation with Nature

1.Find a park, forest, beach, nature preserve, or reservoir.

2.If possible, remove your shoes. Walk around for a few minutes until you come to a place where you feel like pausing.

3.Stand still for a moment and take in the natural elements around you. Take 10 deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.

4.Notice how your body feels. What feels tight, tired, achy? What parts feel loose and easy? Take five more breaths, directing the breath to the tight places and relieving the tension as you exhale.

5.Begin walking again, for as long as you'd like. Allow yourself to be completely absorbed by nature.

6.When you are done, notice how you feel, such as whether your breath is easier, your body feels more relaxed, and your heart is more connected to what's around you.

Body Scan

1.Sit in a chair with your back straight, your feet under your knees and your palms resting on your thighs.

2.Take a deep breath and let your attention be absorbed by the sensations in your feet. Feel, for instance, each foot's temperature, or the texture of your socks.

3.After a few breaths, move your attention to your calves. For several more breaths, sense your calves in the same way.

4.Gradually move your attention through each body part. After the calves, focus on your thighs, then your bottom, abdomen, lower back, chest, upper back, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, face, and head.

5.After scanning each body part, let your awareness cover your entire body at once.

I found these techniques to be very helpful.  For more information on the Whole Body Action Plan, check out for complete information.


Elaine said...

They all seem like great relaxation tips, Kenn. I hope they help you to relax. Thank you for sharing them with us!

mike said...

I'm out the second my head hits the pillow... literally. Course, I hit the sack around midnight... maybe you should try that rather than these whacko, granola-ish, yogi solutions? :) Seriously - you might also try some meditational, nature tapes (iPod) when you fall alseep (ocean, rainstorms)... very relaxing. I've used them in the past, but don't remember them, since I fell alseep the second they started playing.