Relaxing myself is one of the biggest challenges I face as I am preparing for meditation. It seemed at first that I could only meditate for so long before I become too uncomfortable. Either I have to stop or shift my body to a different position. That’s quite an interruption to my meditation! Because of this, I started experimenting with 3 different types of relaxation techniques. Here is what I personally discovered about each one:
1. Breathing Exercise
This exercise is a step up from the here and now meditation on the breath that I mentioned in an earlier article. I have found that this exercise is very helpful for relieving emotional stress such as nervousness or anxiety.
If emotional stress affects your meditations negatively then use this exercise as you are preparing for meditation. I see it as a quick go-to method for relieving anxiety.
Personally, it has worked wonders for me! I have used it for years whenever I have felt anxiety developing before a presentation or before taking an exam.
This is the shortest out of the 3 relaxation techniques that I am describing.
- Sit with your back straight and choose a count between 3–6 seconds
- Inhale deeply for half of the chosen count. Expand your stomach as you do so
- Continue inhaling for the remainder of the count and expand your chest as you do so
- Hold your breath for the same count
- Exhale for half of the chosen count. Pull your stomach in like a deflating balloon as you do so
- Continue Exhaling. Push your chest in like a deflating balloon as you do so
- Repeat from step 2
Only do this 3 or 4 times
Here is an example using a count of 4:
Begin Inhale, start expanding stomach
[still inhaling] 1.. 2..
Continue inhale, start expanding chest
[still inhaling] 3.. 4..
Hold breath for 4 seconds
Begin exhaling, deflate stomach
[still exhaling] 1.. 2..
Continue exhaling, deflate chest
[still exhaling] 3.. 4..
As a side note, I have to say that you need to take caution when performing this exercise.
Use your own personal judgement and common sense (I’m sure you have some 🙂 ) when you decide how long to inhale/exhale and hold your breath.
Make sure that the count is comfortable for you. Do NOT exert yourself when you perform this exercise. If you push yourself too hard you will get lightheaded.
I didn’t start doing yoga until I took a class in college. I discovered that it was excellent for relaxing the body.
We ended each session laying down in savasana pose to further relax our bodies and feel the energy we just raised.
The class was one hour long but today I do yoga for anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes followed by laying down for 15 minutes.
I like the Sun Salutation because it is short, easy to learn and easy to remember. Just repeat the series for however long you’ve decided.
It is important that you lay down after each session and focus on any sensations in your body. Yoga stretching energizes your body so this is what you want to focus on.
This is the longest of the relaxation techniques so it isn’t ideal to use when preparing for meditation if you are short on time. Stretching then laying down takes much longer than any others.
Most importantly you should not feel any pain during yoga. Yoga is gentle stretching so you should not be exerting yourself.
I also found out that yoga can energize you so it will keep you up at night. I spent quite a few nights wondering why I couldn’t sleep so I recommend doing yoga in the morning for a fresh start to your day.
This is advice that I am handing down to you so take-eth it and do-eth as you wish 🙂
3. Guided Meditation
I have had success with this method but it will be difficult if you have trouble staying on task.
It has a ‘learning curve’ in that visualization skill will be helpful when you are following along as well.
I have noticed that a common theme in guided meditation is going in a downward direction. Usually it is going down a hill or walking down a staircase. This helps take you into a deeper state of meditation..
Guided meditation has a root in hypnosis. In hypnosis, the hypnotist uses visualization to help the client reach a state of mind where they can readily be affected by suggestions.
So being led down a staircase combined with an affirmation such as “deeper and deeper” is symbolic of going into a deeper state of meditation.
To perform guided meditation, you can:
- listen to one on Youtube
- record yourself reading a script and play it back when you are ready
- memorize a script and take yourself through it
Final Thoughts on Relaxation Techniques
The biggest problem I experience during meditation is not being able to disassociate myself from my environment.
There is usually some external stimuli preventing me from totally disassociating myself from my physical location. Either the room is too cold, the floor is too hard, or my world is too loud.
To circumvent this, I use a combination of the last two relaxation techniques. I do a guided meditation that takes me down a staircase while I am laying down after yoga.
The relaxation I feel after stretching really helps me disassociate from my body and emerge myself in my visualization.
I definitely recommend giving it a try if you have the time!