RELAXATION.....................................................[BACK to HOME]

Try to adopt a passive attitude of letting yourself become relaxed; don't force the relaxation. Don't worry about whether you are doing this "right," or the precise timing of this practice. Concentrate on how you feel. Think about a 1 or 2 syllable word that has a very relaxed sound to it. Some people choose the word "one," some the word "easy," some use the sound "mmmm." Keep this word, and take it with you in your mind as you begin your exercise.

Once you have the time, place, an image, and a chosen word:

Sit or lie quietly in a comfortable position. Close your eyes throughout the practice.

Systematically relax all of the muscles of your body. Start at your feet and progress up through your face. If, as you progress, an area of your body feels particularly tense, tighten the muscles in that area even more and then let go.

If an area still seems tense take your time. Stay there for a while. Relaxation comes at its own pace.

Mentally scan your body as you become relaxed. Remind yourself mentally that various parts of your body are beginning to feel heavy and relaxed.

Become aware of your breathing; concentrate as you take a breath in and as you let the breath out. As you breathe out say your chosen word to yourself. Breathe easily and naturally.

Do not worry about whether you were successful in achieving relaxation. Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur. When distracting thoughts enter your mind, say to yourself, "I'll think about that later" and let your mind return to your chosen word; slowly repeat that word to yourself over and over.

Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm clock. When you finish, with your eyes still closed, sit or lie quietly for a few moments. After a few moments, remain quiet but open your eyes.

With practice, relaxation should come with little effort. Practice once or twice daily but not within 2 hours after a meal since digestion seems to interfere with the relaxation response. Once you are well practiced, you may find that you are able to relax in stressful circumstances by giving yourself a few moments to relax your body, concentrate on your breathing, and focus on your chosen word.

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If you are having difficulty sleeping, relaxation may prove helpful. Many people find that if they do this exercise when they go to bed, sleep follows more easily. Even if sleep does not come right away, you can help your body to recuperate from the day by doing the exercise over and over during your sleep time.