“Take rest; a field that has rested gives bountiful crop.” ~ Ovid
Relaxation is not simply a pleasure or luxury; it is a biological necessity. The body and mind need regular periods of “down time” so that it can repair, reorganize and regenerate itself. Because we are all a little bit different in our genetic and environmental makeup, some people can keep running in a “stressed out” mode for many years, whereas others will feel it more quickly and burn out after a few days, weeks or months. The good news is that burning out is not necessary and can easily be avoided if we make a little effort and take a little time out each day just to relax.
When you find a technique that works for you, practice it often and master it. Once you have fully integrated the technique into your system, it will be a skill that will be with you always—something you can call on at any time. The more often you practice the technique, the easier it will be for you to simply “drop down” into the state of relaxation, because you will become more familiar with such a state of being. Below, I have listed 5 of the best relaxation techniques that I have come across in my 12 years of personal research.
1. Yoga Nidra
Yoga nidra is loosely translated as “yogic sleep”, and is a mediation/relaxation technique that was fine-tuned by Swami Saraswati around the 1960’s. He has written an insightful and thorough book on it, reporting many incredible stories of his students learning complex languages like Sanskrit when repeatedly practicing yoga nidra. It simply involves laying in a comfortable position and following the instructions. It has been said that thirty minutes of yoga nidra is equivalent to around 2 – 3 hours of quality sleep, and I would agree with this. The best thing about this technique is that you get to lie down and be all comfy and warm when practicing it.
If you have any back problems where you find it difficult to sit for any type of meditation practice then I would recommend just going for this practice to begin. A 30min yoga nidra recording is available for free when you sign up to the enewsletter.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is a technique that was developed way back in the 1920’s by Dr. Edmond Jacobson. It involves the process of lying down on a flat surface or sitting in a comfortable chair, closing the eyes, and tensing and relaxing various muscle groups throughout the body (feet, legs, hips, back, belly, arms, neck, head etc.). When the attention is on one muscle group, we create tension in that muscle group for about ten seconds and then relax them for about twenty seconds or so before moving on to the next muscle group. The entire process to do the whole body takes about twenty minutes. It is especially suitable and designed for those people who suffer from anxiety, and it has also been found to be helpful for pain management.
There are many scripts and recordings available online for free.
3. Breath and Breathing
How we breathe is a primary factor that influences our state of mind, our emotional well-being, our overall energy levels, our cardiovascular health, and the overall state of our nervous system. In yoga and meditation the breath is considered to be the bridge to the deeper levels of the mind and unconscious behaviors. The breath is one of the easiest and quickest ways to alter or change our brain wave activity and nervous system. Try making your out breath slightly longer then your in breath to initiate a relaxation response.
4. Binaural Beats
Binaural beats are an audio technology that was developed around the 1970s. This technique involves wearing headphones to listen to an audio recording for around 20 – 30 minutes. There is usually no vocal instruction during the audio, just a strange pulsing sound, often overlaid by natural soundscapes like rain or water. Binaural beats are created by producing a sine wave that is sent through one ear piece and another sine wave that is sent through the other ear piece. The brain then finds the harmony between the two different sine waves and alters itself to match that, meaning that when we listen to these sine waves, it alters the brain waves and brings them into a state that induces meditation and relaxation. It is based on the amazing fact that our brain waves entrain to other electrical signals in our environment. So for example, if we are watching TV and the screen images are flickering with fast edits and loud sounds, then our brain waves will be elevated. If we are in the presence of a very relaxed and calm person, then for many people, after some time, they will also begin to feel calm and relaxed.
Binaural beats can be easily found by searching for them on the internet.
Acupuncture really does wonders to help people relax. My experience with treating hundreds of people from all over the world is that most people actually fall asleep on the table soon after the needles are put in. Putting in the tiny needles takes about five minutes, and the rest of the time involves just resting on the table in a comfortable position so that the body’s energy can do its thing.
When people come out of an acupuncture session they are usually very relaxed, and sometimes sleepy, or in some rare cases they are full of energy. Everyone responds a little different with acupuncture because we all have different things going on, so it’s difficult to say exactly what benefits each individual will experience but its definitely worth a try if you haven’t already.