Relaxation is more than chilling in your hammock. I love the hammock moments, trust me. But they don’t necessarily mean I’m truly relaxing. To feel the health benefits of relaxation we need to include body, mind and energy.
Going back to the hammock, the fact that my body is apparently resting, doesn't mean the rest will follow. We may lay down there, thinking stressful and unpleasant thoughts... what if I go bankrupt, what if I get Covid, why my boyfriend didn't love me, why I didn't love my boyfriend? is going on, meanwhile we hold our breaths, tensing our jaws and foreheads. The fact that this is happening without our awareness does not make a relaxing practice out of it. Relaxation is a skill, that is achieved through practice.
When faced with numerous responsibilities, tasks, demands and concerns, relaxation techniques may not be a priority in our lives. Whenever there is a free time, we go to our phones or to Netflix, so that our busy minds seem to rest. The truth is that finding a deep relaxation technique that works for you brings important benefits to your health, which Instagram and Netflix do not.
Practicing relaxation exercises 20–30 minutes on a daily basis can help to prevent stress levels to get out of control. And over time, develop a general feeling of relaxation and increased wellbeing that benefits every area of your life.
- Slowing heart rate
- Lowering blood pressure
- Slowing your breathing rate
- Improving digestion
- Maintaining normal blood sugar levels
- Reducing activity of stress hormones
- Increasing blood flow
- Reducing muscle tension & chronic pain
- Improving concentration & mood
- Improving sleep quality
- Lowering fatigue
- Reducing anger and frustration
- Boosting confidence to handle problems
Health professionals, Breath-work practitioners, yoga teachers, psychotherapists and healers can teach various relaxation techniques. But if you prefer, you can also find your own personal technique.
In general, relaxation techniques involve refocusing your attention on something calming and increasing awareness in your body, locating tension and relaxing further. It doesn't matter which technique you use. What matters is that you try to practice relaxation consistently.
You may want to choose a guide, or guide your own journey. Sit or lay down on a quiet and comfortable spot. Keep a straight spine. You may want to close your eyes and start by concentrating on your breathing.
Types of relaxation techniques include but are not restricted to:
Progressive muscle relaxation. In this technique, you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group individually. This can also help you to become more aware of your physical body. For example, you start by tensing and then relaxing the muscles in your toes, foot, ankle and progressively working your way up to your neck, head and face. Tense your muscles for about five seconds and then relax for 20-30 seconds, and repeat.
Visualisation. In this technique, you form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming place and state. You can incorporate as many senses as you want, including smell, sight, sound and touch. If you imagine relaxing at the garden, for instance, think about the smell of fresh grass and flowers, the sound of birds and the warmth of the sun on your skin, the soft cooling breeze in your nostrils.
- Autogenic relaxation. uses both visual imagery and body awareness. You may repeat words in your mind that may help you relax and reduce muscle tension. For example, you may imagine a peaceful setting and then focus on controlled, relaxing breathing, slowing your heart rate, or feeling different physical sensations, such as relaxing each arm or leg one by one.
Other relaxation techniques may include:
- Tai chi
- Yoga Nidra
- Music and art therapy