Relaxation: Strengthening Your Body and Mind Against Stress

by Christian Fisher

The power of relaxation was first brought to the forefront of medicine in 1974 by Herbert Benson, M.D. It was at that time that Dr. Benson and his colleagues announced their discovery that conscious relaxation causes several healthy changes in the body. In the book, "The American Holistic Health Association Complete Guide To Alternative Medicine," by William Coolinge, M.P.H., Ph.D., these healthy changes are noted. They include:

  • Reduced blood pressure.
  • Reduced respiratory rate.
  • Reduced heart rate.
  • Reduced oxygen consumption.
  • Reduced blood flow to skeletal muscles.
  • Reduced muscle tension.

Mentally and emotionally, you can also expect daily relaxation practices to give you a greater sense of calm, optimism, inner strength, and balance. Here are a couple time-tested, proven meditative techniques that produce the kind of relaxation that will contribute to your overall physical, mental, emotional, even spiritual wellness.

Progressive Relaxation

Do your best to practice this technique everyday. Experts say it's best to practice relaxation for at least twenty minutes per day. At first, practicing the following relaxation technique may seem awkward. In time, and with practice, you'll feel more comfortable with the practice and the results.

Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed. Make sure you're sitting comfortably with your back straight or lying comfortably with your arms along your sides. Close your eyes and begin focusing on your body. Slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. When thoughts and images arise in your mind, acknowledge them, then let them go away as you bring your focus back to your breathing. Fully experience each exhale. Practice this for about five minutes or so.

Shift your focus to your body. Start with your feet. Tighten the muscles in your feet and toes, hold them tense for a couple seconds, then release the tension and let your feet relax. Next, focus on your calves. Tighten the muscles in your calves, hold them tense for a couple seconds, then release the tension and let your calves relax. Repeat this through all of your major muscle groups as you move your attention up your body. Tense your thighs, hold, then relax. Move to your chest, hands, arms, shoulders, and finally your face.

After you have relaxed all of your muscle groups, mentally check over your body from head to toe and feel for any muscles that are still tense. If you notice a part of you that is not totally relaxed, tense it up a little, hold, then relax. Sit, or lay, in silence with your eyes closed for twenty minutes or for as long as is comfortable.

Touching Silence: A Meditation

Here is another way to reach a sense of deep relaxation. This practice is perfect for the spring and summer seasons because it can be practiced outdoors quite easily. This is a meditation I first introduced in my newest book, "The Secret Nature Within You". It's called Touching Silence. A great time to practice this particular meditation is in the hours just before sunrise - say 3:00 AM to 6:00 AM. Find a comfortable, fairly private place outside to sit. Your back porch, your yard, or even a nearby park might do.

Sit with your eyes closed and begin listening to the breeze as it flows through the trees. No need to tense up any muscle groups. This exercise is one of simply listening very deeply. Let yourself become aware of the sounds in the wind. Let yourself become aware of the feeling of moving air around your body. When thoughts or emotions arise spontaneously in your awareness, acknowledge them for a moment, then gently let them go. Get back to listening to the breeze. As you feel yourself breathe in deeply, realize the relationship between the breeze rushing around your body and the breath rushing into your lungs. Enjoy this meditation for twenty minutes or for as long as you feel comfortable.

© Christian Fisher. Used by permission of Journey of Life Productions. All Rights reserved.

Christian Fisher is an award-winning writer and speaker specializing in the strengthening of relationships for personal and family health. He is author of the book, "The Secret Nature Within You".

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