Now that the holidays have come to a close, and the New Year’s resolutions are popping up, I am revisiting the simple practice of relaxation. I have tried several variations on relaxation techniques, and I think the more options I have, the more inclined I am to stick to the practice. If you find that you have a favorite, by all means carry on. Therein lies the beauty of it, it’s up to you. However, I think taking this time for yourself is vital in our world of overstimulation where increases in our stress hormone, cortisol, have such numerous detrimental effects on the body from weight gain to cognitive impairment. So, here goes.
Breathing: Try it. Seriously! Sit up tall and comfortably with the tip of your tongue placed against the bump just above where your two front teeth meet the roof of your mouth, and exhale completely with your mouth open. Now, take a slow deep breath through your nose with your mouth closed at a count of 4 seconds, hold it for a count of 7 seconds, and exhale completely with mouth open at a count of 8 seconds. Hold the tongue position through the entire cycle, and do this technique for a count of 4 cycles. This 4-7-8 technique by Dr. Weil is recommended to be done twice a day or more, but he suggests the user stick to 4 cycles for the first month of practice. Other excellent breathing techniques are belly breathing, alternate nostril breathing or ujjiya breathing also called “ocean breath,” and are all common breathing practices in yoga.
Yoga: The practice of yoga incorporates some of the above mentioned breathing techniques for relaxation, but also improves flexibility, strength, focus, posture and a whole host of other physical and mental conditions. This makes yoga a great option for both stress and fitness management. Additionally, there is a vast array of yoga practices available to suit individual tastes.
Auditory guidance: Instead of taking that 20 minute power nap (which may happen regardless, so set an alarm if you need to be up) try lying down or sitting comfortably in a chair, using headphones if there is external noise, and listening to 5-20 minutes of a babbling brook or other soothing sound without words. Another great option is to play a guided relaxation or hypnosis session for yourself. I have used both and found them to put me at ease and help redirect my thoughts when I find I am stuck on a loop that is causing anxiety, worry or other negative reactions. I have found all of these options available to download for free as phone apps.
Meditation: Most of us have probably heard of or even tried meditation for its ability to calm the mind by clearing the mind. All of the practices I have listed so far refocus the mind, and meditation is the original technique for accomplishing this. However, the ultimate goal of meditation is to stop thinking altogether. As this is extremely difficult and years of meditation may never produce this desired result, focusing on only one thing whether it be the breath, soothing sounds, or a mantra, help to quiet the mind. For a step-by-step beginner’s meditation guide, click here. A relatively newer meditation process is transcendental meditation or TM, which is making the rounds especially in the world of celebritydom. TM purports the ability to work for everyone with ease and effectiveness, with the user capable of reaching the deepest level of meditation almost immediately. For more information on TM, click here.
Remember, there is no one solution for everyone. Even from the handful of options I listed, there are numerous alternatives. Some may not fit the definition of meditation, but they all achieve very similar desirable effects that improve our whole being. Namaste.