The technique called Progressive Relaxation is an exercise you can implement to support your body to relax and defeat tension.
Our bodies tense up automatically as a result of our Sympathetic Nervous System. Even as you are sitting reading this now, you may notice groups of muscles in your body that are tense, across the shoulders, the spine, the neck.
Whether you are sitting in conversation attempting to connect with someone you have little in common with, or finding it difficult to get to sleep at night, progressive relaxation can help.
It allows you to bring a caring, mindful approach to yourself in a variety of situations.
Because you start to bring awareness to your body, you can then bring a conscious effort to softening and relaxing it. This enables you to support yourself in staying steady. And this has repercussions for those around you and for all of humanity.
Imagine how we could communicate with one another from a place of steady calm rather than angry tension.
Here’s how with 6 steps to progressive relaxation:
- Notice all your aches and tensions. Often there will be certain muscles that you’re immediately alerted to.
- Notice how the out-breath can easily become a sigh. You can exaggerate this, breathing in slowly, then exhaling out of your mouth.
- Allow that out-breath to take with it some of the tension. It’s the body’s own in-built de-stressor.
- Notice your shoulders drop with each out-breath.
- Take any aspect of your body, hold the muscles tightly for a count of 10, then let go of the tension.
- Allow the muscles to relax, soften, let go.
- Try it with your hands now: clench them into fists and hold that for a count of 10. Then soften them. Feel the tension flow through your fingers as you release the clench.
- Sweep your awareness from the top of your head all the way down to your toes, keeping interested in all parts of your body and noticing where there are areas of tension and discomfort.
- Hold and release tension at any parts of the body – both feet, your knees, your thighs, your stomach, your shoulders and your face.
- Go through these parts of your body and hold in the tension for a count of 10.
- Then soften, loosen and let go of the tension you’ve created.
- Finally, focus on your breath. Notice how you can hold your breath for a count of 10 then release the tension that builds up.
- The body is designed to naturally let go – your out-breath is a natural letting go of tension.
- You can also explore what it feels like to hold on at the end of your out-breath for a count of 5. Notice the body’s natural desire to replenish itself.
- Continue breathing slowly and deeply. Let your whole body enjoy this moment of relaxation. You are home for yourself.
If you’re using this progressive relaxation while participating in conversation, this is where you can become alert to your own tension. Notice if your hands are tensing into fists or your breath has become shallow. You may be experiencing frustration within this situation yet you can use aspects of your progressive relaxation to relax during these tension-building moments.
Another way to view your body and all its tensions, is to be so aware of you and your reactions that you are wholly and completely ‘home’ for yourself. Our tendency as humans is to abandon ourselves in knee-jerk reactions. So:
When you are home for yourself you can walk round in a graceful and harmonious cocoon
Enjoy being in your body and with progressive relaxation as one of your techniques for alleviating stress, you’re in charge!
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