Physical Need 6 - Relaxation

Unlike rest, in which you allow the moment to direct your activities, relaxation is an active process designed to trigger a specific physiological response called the relaxation response. By doing successfully doing so your heart beat slows down, muscles relax, blood pressure decreases, metabolism decreases and reduces your rate of breathing. Learning how to deeply relax, and allowing accumulated stress and tension to dissolve not only feels great, but it’s also an essential part of keeping healthy. Regular relaxation can help you manage stress, reduce levels of pain and discomfort, increase would healing, and even help you access greater creativity.


But what is relaxation? When I talk to my clients about relaxation there appears to be quite a lot of confusion surrounding what counts as relaxation, and what doesn’t. So here are my guidelines to help you out. These are the four criteria that need to be fulfilled for something to count as relaxation.


  1. It should have no adverse effects on your health. So smoking, drugs and alcohol do not count
  2. It should trigger the relaxation response. Your body has an inbuilt physiological mechanism called the relaxation response. Essentially it’s designed to return the body to a place of balance. Signs to watch out for indicating that it has been triggered include: feeling calm and relaxed, and more connected to your surroundings; a decrease in your heart rate, the relaxation of your muscles, and a deepening and slowing of your breathing. 
  3. Being able to surrender, enjoy and be present to the experience is a key component of relaxing. If your mind is distracted or you are not able to enjoy the experience that it doesn’t count s relaxation. For example, having a massage is relaxing only if you allow yourself to dissolve into the experience of the massage.
  4. Everyone has different tastes and a preference, so finding a relaxation practise that fits in with you is important. Going for a walk in the countryside could be deeply relaxing for one person, but boring or unpleasant for another.


Tips for Relaxation


  • As for rest, see if you can build a relaxation period into your daily routine. I recommend between 15 and 30 minutes each day.
  • Choose a couple of relaxation practices and try them out in order to discover which work for you. Relaxation practices include: meditation, yoga, chi kung, walking in nature, massage, taking a hot bath, listening music, progressive muscle relaxation, prayer, mantras, hypnotherapy, conscious breathing, biofeedback and visualization.
  • Learn about stress management (see module three)
  • The following is a deep relaxation guided imagery exercise that you might like to try using


Guided Imagery – Bodymind Relaxation


  • Find a quiet warm place where you will be undisturbed. Put on some relaxation music if you feel that might help you.
  • Choose a word or phrase that you associate relaxation with. The key is that it should be meaningful to you and evoke feelings of calm and relaxation. For example ‘peace’, ‘love’
  • Sit relaxed, close your eyes lightly and whilst keeping your eyes closed look out between your eyebrows. Breath in and out through your nose.
  • Imagine yourself in a place that you associate with being deeply relaxed. It could be somewhere you’ve been before or you can make somewhere up. Take a couple of deep breaths and allow yourself to feel at peace in this place
  • Now mentally scan your body for tension. Start at the top of the head and work your way down to your feet. If you locate any tension, deliberate increase that tension by contracting and tensing the relevant muscles, bring it to its maximum intensity and let it go suddenly and completely. Repeat this paying particular attention to areas of the face, and shoulders, which carry most of the body’s tension. Take as long as you need to do this.
  • Now say your key word on the out breath and gently repeat it on each subsequent out breath. If your mind strays or if you start judging yourself or your experience just notice what has happened and gently return your attention back to the word and the breath. Continue with this for 5 to 20 minutes.
  • Now and this is optional, turn your attention to your feet. Imagine and feel your feet filling up with a white, rejuvenating energy. Feel and/or see its warmth as it circulates around your feet, as it does so, dissolving all stress, all tension and all discomfort.
  • See and feel that bright white energy slowly rise in a spiralling fashion up into both ankles. As you breathe in, allow this relaxing energy to rise up higher on into your calves, your knees and on up into the thighs. When it reaches the base of your spine, also feel and see it in at your finger tips ascending slowly into the fingers, the wrists, the forearms, the elbows, the upper arms and finally into the shoulders themselves. All awhile, the warm energy continues rising up the spine, abdomen and chest until it meet the energy from your shoulders at your neck. Allow it to continue up the front, back and side of the head and all the way to the top. Wait a moment, return your attention to your breathing and enjoy the peace that follows.
  • Once all tension has been dissolved, imagine a shower of bright white energy pouring down from the top of your head, descending to the neck, the shoulders and to the area of the heart, and from the heart spilling out into and around the body. Picture yourself sitting within in a sea of bright white light. Allow yourself as much time as you wish to enjoy this relaxed state.


Now move onto Physical Need 7 - Optimal Breathing


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