MEDITATION AND RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
By Sydney Solis
Yoga Teacher and Storyteller
In today’s busy world, it’s essential to find time to relax. Relaxation is a mental, emotional and physical health requirement, as stress is cumulative and can show its effects later in life with sometimes-fatal effects.
By finding time to relax through meditation, breath work, yoga, walking and other exercise, as well as taking time to enjoy life with our families and take up hobbies, we restore our body and mind and maintain their balance. Sickness is a body and mind that is out of balance. A relaxed mind and body leads to clarity of mind, which results in a healthy body and inner peace. When we have inner peace we are able to access our inner power to realize our deepest dreams and desires and bring them into fruition and live in love, peace and harmony within our environment, family and community.
Meditation, breathwork, yoga and relaxation are a practice and process. Do not judge yourself or worry about making progress, but resolve to just commit to the work. This work is an act of honoring yourself and feeling good about you. Every large task begins with a single step, and it is the continual steps that will get results. Just like the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, the steady pacing of the tortoise ultimately brought him to cross the finish line.
It is best to find a place where you will practice each day. It may be sitting up in bed in the first few minutes of the morning, or right before going to bed. At work, you can take 15 minutes before lunch, if possible. Or you can practice meditation and relaxation in action, described later. This practice will also help you live more in the present and engage better with your environment.
Choose a place to practice.
Start with a few minutes a day.
Build up to longer periods of time between 5 and 20 minutes.
Don’t worry if you skip a practice; just continue practicing when you can.
You are building up a lifelong habit. When possible, practice a few minutes a day or at least once a week with your children. You will be giving them a valuable habit that will improve their health, happiness and success for a lifetime.
It may be difficult at first, but you will find results that make you feel good. And so discipline can be welcomed. The rule of discipline is to be compassionate and gentle with oneself. It’s a discipline that yokes you to practice. Discipline is the yoke that will set you free.
Begin by sitting in a chair with feet on the floor, or sitting cross-legged on the floor. Use a blanket to support the low back or sit on a pillow. Be sure that the spine is erect and that you are comfortable.
You can keep eyes open or closed. If your mind tends to be very busy, keep the eyes open and chose a small spot in front of you a short distance away to gaze at.
Focus the mind onto the heart center.
Notice the breath and breathe in deeply and exhale slowly. Don’t force anything. Just be aware of this action. Notice the breath entering the bottom of the lungs, the middle of the lungs, up to the top. Exhale slowly and for a longer time than the inhalation. If you count to four on the inhale, exhale to a count of eight.
Keep the mind focused on the breathing. If your mind wanders, notice that you are thinking. That your mind is wandering and thinking a thought. Say, “I’m thinking,” and bring the mind back to the breath. Place the mind in the space between the thoughts. Where are you in between two thoughts? Begin to dis-identify yourself with your thoughts and that your mind is your helper rather than your identity and that you are in control of your mind rather than your mind in control of you.
Next, focus on the feeling of your feet in the earth. Feel your buttocks on the chair. Feel your hands in your lap. Feel the air on your skin, the clothes on your skin. Feel the air entering and leaving your nostrils.
Feel the entire body from head to toe. Hand to foot.
Continue focusing on this breath and feeling in the body.
Notice when thoughts come up and simply bring them back to the breath and feeling. Notice any emotions that come up.
End when you feel like it.
Use a mantra, which is a repeated word, or ritual prayer to silently repeat in the mind. For example you can say, “peace” on the in breath, and “calm” on the out breath. Or you can count from one to ten on each exhalation. If you forget, return to one and begin again. Try counting backwards from ten to one.
Use meditation in action. Next time you are angry, depressed, afraid, etc. in a situation, catch your mind thinking and trace the root of that thought. What causes that fear and anger? What happened in my past that makes me repeat this action? How can I break the cycle of this behavior and harmonize with my environment now and feel better?
This meditation can help us bring our awareness deeper into our waking environment and bring harmony into our lives, families and workplaces.
Make the left hand a fist and place it into the right hand. Curl the right hand around the left fist.
Focus on the breath.
Begin walking very slowly. Emphasize the heel coming down to the ball of the foot then pressing off with the big tow. If the mind wanders bring it down to the feeling of the feet in the earth and the fist in the hand. Continue walking slowly and placing your mind in your feet and in your breath.
Start to catch yourself during your day and becoming aware of the present moment, your breath and your actions. Say, “I am aware that I am alive and present at this very moment.” Feel your body and breath, become aware of any emotions or thoughts.
Eat mindfully and slowly, observing your food, tasting it, chewing it well. Observe your actions and link them with your breath.
Resolve to slow down, make fewer appointments than necessary, etc.
DREAM JOURNAL and JOURNALING
Keeping track of your dreams helps improve our awareness of ourselves. By working with the dream image and feeling, it can have many benefits. By writing these down and connecting with our feelings about them and the dream, we can begin to become aware of our emotional and physical habits during the day and make changes to keep the mind and body in balance.
Keeping a journal about your day also helps process and reflect on events and relieve you of stress. It’s like a mini psychotherapist listening to yourself and it may helps relieve and become aware of otherwise unconscious tendency about yourself. You can write in your journal after any relaxation, meditation or exercise practice.
Lie on your back arms away from the body a bit, palms facing up. Legs let go and turn away from the body. Keep the eyes closed. An eye bag is helpful to cover the eyes from distractions and light, and you can cover up the body with a blanket.
Begin noting the sounds of the room.
Drop your awareness into your heart.
Become aware of your breath. Breath a few deep breaths then return to normal breathing. When you exhale, imagine your body sinking into the earth, relaxing and letting go.
Begin to place your awareness around the different parts of your body, rotating from toe to toe, foot to heel, to leg, the knee, thighs, up to the hips, buttocks, stomach, chest, shoulders, arms, elbows, hands fingers, the back, the neck, the chin, lips, cheeks, nose, eyes, forehead, ears, head.
If the mind wanders, bring it back to the breath, to the spaciousness in between the thoughts, to the space in the body. Continue lying down and breathing and feeling relaxed. Tell yourself that “I am relaxed. I am peaceful.” Visualize a rose, a candle, any religious image or your choice or another pleasing image while in relaxation.
When coming out of the relaxation, deepen your breath, bring small movements back to your hands and feet. Stretch, draw your knees into your chest, roll over to your right side and bring yourself up with your arms. If you are ready for sleep, simply go to sleep.
Take a nice walk outside with regular pace and keep this awareness of the feet and the body swinging and moving with the breath and notice the view.
Light a small candle and walk around with it in the dark, looking at only the flame. Use your periphery awareness to navigate and keep your breath awareness in the heart.
OTHER SUGGESTIONS FOR STRESS RELEASE AND RELAXATION
Take a nap each day. 15 minutes is best.
Watch less TV, and cut down on news intake, which causes anxiety.
Shop less and purchase fewer things.
Put more fresh flowers in the home and at work.
Buy and eat only fresh, organic foods. Organic is expensive, however, it’s cheaper in the long run with doctor bills and the effects of poor foods and additives on your mind and body.
Cut down or eliminate caffeine intake.
Practice gratitude for all that you have.
Spend time looking at art and listening to music.
Pick up a hobby you like.
Spend time in nature.
Spend enjoyable time with your family and friends.
Take time to share stories of your life and feelings with friends and family. Encourage them to do the same.
Copyright 2006 Sydney Solis -- Mythic Yoga -- www.MythicYoga.com
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