Relaxation, a technique

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by Nicholas E. Stratas


I have been teaching relaxation exercises since the mid-1960s. Still questions for specifics of relaxation arise. Relaxation and other techniques permit management of our speed, the anxiety which accompanies the living of our life so that it is mostly appropriate to our journey any given time. Life is a gift and calls for proper stewardship in the form of management of the self. I have been struck with the number of times clients remark they have been doing this all their life without thinking about it. In a survey I did in the middle 1970s, 40%of college students were doing some type of identifiable relaxation pattern without any formal instruction. Many people associate doing relaxation procedures with the need to take an hour or a half an hour or perhaps 15 minutes. While these can be helpful, very little time is necessary. More important is the need for repetition. Here is the routine I ask people, clients to implement. We have two basic goals: to increase one’s total body awareness and to decrease one’s baseline of anxiety (tension). Optimally this needs to be seen as a maintenance procedure to be used on a regular basis. This can also be used to decrease tension whenever anxiety is noted to be more than desirable. Moreover relaxation is an excellent pre-activity relaxer.
Start each day with this while lying in bed. If the bladder is full get up, empty it and return either to bed or to an easy chair. It is important to focus, think about, and feel that part of the body in each step and/or the whole of the body. In addition it is extremely important to mentally picture a pleasant natural setting, without the people and any man-made objects. Use the same picture each time so as to develop a conditioned response connecting the picture with the state of relaxation. Take 3-5 seconds at each step.

1. Stretch the whole body all at the same time by stretching the arms, hands, fingers upwards and away from the body and the legs and feet downwards and apart. Pets stretch when first awakening.
2. Go limp throughout the whole body.
3. Concentrate on the both feet from within, thinking, “tension in the muscles and at the skin level melting away”
4. Concentrate on both ankles, thinking “joints limp and loose and the tension melting away”,
5. Concentrate on both legs between the ankles and the knees, thinking “muscles limper and looser, tension melting away”,
6. Concentrating on both knees, “Knee joints limp and loose, tension melting away”
7. Focus on the upper parts of the legs between the knees and the hips. “Muscles limper and looser and the tension dissolving away”,
8. Concentrate on the hips, buttocks, and the pelvic/genital area. “Muscles limp and loose and the tension in the deep muscles and at the skin level melting away”,
9. Concentrate on the midsection, the abdomen, the sides and the back. “Muscles limper and looser the tension dissolving away”. An awareness at the same time of the inside organs, stomach, intestines, kidneys, bladder and others — all functioning naturally and automatically and more so as muscles and skin and bones and joints get limper and looser. Moreover the awareness that breathing is with the belly. As we take a breath in, the belly goes out – as we exhale the belly goes down.
10. Concentrate on the chest. “Muscles limp and easy, tension is melting away”, here again an awareness of the organs inside the chest, the lungs and heart functioning automatically and more naturally and easier as the rest of the body relaxes. Here also noting that the chest does not move when breathing, rather the belly is doing the work.
11. Concentrating on both hands and fingers. “Hand and finger muscles limper and looser tension melting away”
12. Concentrate on both wrists. “Wrists limp and loose, tension melting away”
13. Concentrate on the forearms, between the wrist and the elbows. “Muscles limper and looser, tension dissolving away”,
14. Concentrate on the elbow joints. “Joints limper and looser, tension dissolving away”
15. Concentrate on the upper parts of the arms.” Deep muscles limper and looser, tension melting away”
16. Concentrate on the shoulders and neck. “Letting the muscles become looser and limper, tension melting away”
17. Concentrate on the head and face the muscles of the forehead, nose and cheeks, temples and jaw muscles. “limper and looser the muscles”,” the jaw muscles limper and looser inside the closed lips”
As you go through this procedure periodically checking back to ensure that areas already covered have not tensed up again, relaxing again if necessary.
18. Thinking, “the tension draining out of my body from the top of my head, neck, shoulders, arms out my fingertips and down my neck, torso, legs, feet out of the tips of my toes. The tension draining out the tips of my fingers and toes being replaced by the pleasant feelings which go along with the pleasant mental picture permeating through the body, from the top of the head down through the neck, arms, torso, legs and into the fingers and toes”.

This whole procedure need not take much more than 3 to 5 minutes first thing in the morning. It sets a baseline for the day which can be reinforced periodically through the day. I recommend the use of short mini relaxations, two or 3 times in the morning 3 or 4 times in the afternoon and 3 or 4 times in the evening. Each of these does not need to take more than 15 seconds and are a repetition of the above procedure. This is more of a scan or a body inventory starting with the feet and going upwards through the body of the top of the head rearranging awkward positions to a more natural position, relaxing any tense muscle masses, using the same pleasant mental picture, letting the tension drain from the head down through the body out of the fingertips and toe tips to be replaced by the pleasant feelings that go along with the pleasant picture. Last thing at night I recommend without the stretch going through this procedure taking it very, very slowly falling asleep while doing this.

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