Guided Relaxation – Why should I use it?

I am a great fan of guided relaxations which allow your body and mind to completely relax and have just released my first collection of guided relaxations to download – Earth & Sky (Available on iTunesCDBaby Amazon & Google Play

In our current lives we are pretty much on 24/7 and I find through my yoga classes that people find it very difficult to relax.  It’s not something people are used to doing out with sleep and it’s not something people tend to consciously make time for.  I love seeing the effects on people when they’ve experienced a guided relaxation during class – the sense of lightness and calmness in their faces and bodies – and I wanted to share this collection so that people can receive the benefits more often.

It’s incredibly important that we find time to properly relax.  In this 24/7 busy and stressful lifestyle our sympathetic nervous system is switched on a lot of the time.  This is our fight or flight mode.  Whether it is work, family life, financial pressures, anxiety over the future, there are a whole host of stressors which trigger this fight or flight mode.  When the sympathetic nervous system is engaged our heart rate increases and our breathing rate is increased in order to get oxygenated blood to the major muscles to react to the stressor.  We make short terms decisions based on the information we have to hand to get us away from the stress.  With the blood supply busy transporting oxygen to the major muscles our digestive system doesn’t get what it needs to function properly.  If we live too much in this state it has a negative impact on our bodies and our lives.

It is therefore important that we ensure we make time to rest and engage the parasympathetic nervous system.  This allows our heart rate to slow down, the circulation system to deliver blood and nutrients to all the organs to allow the body to function optimally and repair itself.  When we are in a more rested state we are able to take longer term decisions, have the space to step back and find creative solutions to problems and be able to respond rather than react to events.

My guided relaxations are written to allow the body to come to complete muscular relaxation while staying awake and aware.  The conscious mind can switch off.  I like to think of these as a away for your mind to do a bit of file sorting – if the mind is continually busy it it can get overwhelmed with the filing of information and information gets filed in the wrong place or distorted.  When we allow the mind to relax it can have a bit of a tidy up and process information effectively.

In the relaxations you also have the option to utilise a sankalpa or resolve.  This is a short phrase, intention or affirmation that you can say near the beginning and end of the relaxation for something that you wish to change.  As you relax your mind can take in the intention so that it can act as a reference point for future actions.  Here are some examples:

  • I am beautiful and loved. I am proud to be me
  • I trust life to unfold in positive ways. The universe loves me and supports me
  • I choose to see everyone and everything with joy and love
  • Life is change. I adapt easily and accept the past, the present and the future

Any phrase or affirmation you use should be short and simple so that it is easy for you to remember.  It should be in the present tense ie said as something that you are doing now rather than something you have done in the past or will do in the future.  It should also be in positive language, bringing positive things in to your life rather than being about giving something up.  For example “I choose to eat healthy and nutritious food” rather than “I am giving up food that is bad for me”

Using sanklapas and affirmations in this way when we are going about our daily life our mind will look for ways to support these beliefs which will help to make positive changes if you choose.

Earth & Sky album is available to download on iTunes, CDBabyAmazon & Google Play.

Meditation or Relaxation – what is the difference?

 

I’m often asked by people in my classes what is the difference between relaxation and meditation.  They both have some similar effects on the mind and body and I believe they are both important in modern life but they are two different techniques.

Let’s start with relaxation.

There are two aspects to our nervous system – the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.  The sympathetic nervous system is where our ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response comes from if we are confronted by danger or some form of stress trigger.  The body releases adrenalin and cortisol to get the heart pumping faster and the breathing rate increases to get more oxygen around the body, particularly to the large muscle groups so that we can get out of danger quickly.  The parasympathetic nervous system on the other hand is our ‘rest, relax and restore’ response. The heart rate slows down, the breathing rate slows down and blood is transported all around the body to all the organs allowing them to function properly.

These days our lives are very much centred in the sympathetic nervous system.  We are so busy with so many competing demands for our time and energy the majority of us feel some form of stress on a daily basis.  And a small amount of stress isn’t a bad thing, the stress triggers us to take some form of action.  But if we are constantly in the ‘fight, flight, freeze’ mode then we are putting a lot of pressure onto our bodies and minds.  If the body is focussed on getting out of danger the mind is making very short term decisions, the blood circulation is diverted away from our digestive system, our blood pressure is increased for prolonged periods of time.

We therefore need to take time out and relax.  But this is easier said than done.  The common way to relax – a glass of wine in front of the TV.  We may think we are relaxing but we are still being bombarded with information which can create stress triggers.  The easiest way to relax is to find a few minutes of quiet time each day, lie down, focus on the breath and allowing all the muscles in the body to relax.   This allows the heart rate to slow down and the body to restore itself.

So what about meditation?

Meditation is a technique that allows us to become aware of the body and mind a to bring more awareness and compassion into our daily life.  Meditation works to quiet the internal chatter so that when we act we are acting out of choice rather than making habitual reactions to a situation.  It helps us to respond rather than react.  It also allows us to live in the present moment, not clinging to the past or pining all our hopes onto some future time or event.

Similar to relaxation techniques meditation also has the effect of switching on the parasympathetic nervous system but by tuning into the body and mind and choosing how we respond to situations it can reduce the effect of the stress triggers.  That’s not to say that if you’ll be more prone to danger because you can’t react fast enough rather it gives you the space to decide whether you need to react or not.

There are lots and lots of different meditation techniques but the general theme is a single point of concentration which then allows the mind to quieten.  It could be focussing on the breath – the sensation of the air flowing in through the nostrils, filling the lungs and the sensation as it leaves the body or one of the myriad other techniques.  Some days the focus may come easy other days it may be hard to quieten that internal chatter, the key is not to judge – it is what it is.  As with anything, regular and consistent practice is the key.

Over the next few months I’ll be exploring relaxation and meditation techniques in more depth and compiling some guided meditation and relaxation downloads.

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