The following three methods of relaxation are among the simplest and most effective, offers Healthwise. They should be done once or twice a day for about 10 to 20 minutes. Pick a time and place where you won’t be disturbed or distracted.
Belly Breathing. The object of belly breathing is to develop full use of your lungs and get in touch with the rhythm of your breathing. It can be practised in any position, but it is best to learn it lying on your back, with your knees bent.
- Place your left hand on your abdomen and your right hand on your chest. Notice how your hands move as you breathe in and out.
- Practise filling your lower lungs by breathing so that your left hand goes up when you inhale and your right hand remains still. Always inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
- When you have filled and emptied your lower lungs eight to 10 times, add the second step to your breathing: inhale first into your lower lungs as before, and then continue inhaling into your upper chest. As you do so, your right hand will rise and your left hand will fall a little as your abdomen falls.
- As you exhale slowly through your mouth, make a quiet, whooshing sound as first your left and then your right hand falls. As you exhale, feel the tension leaving your body as you become more and more relaxed.
- Practise breathing in and out in this manner for three to five minutes. Notice the movement of your abdomen and chest is like rolling waves rising and falling in a rhythmic motion.
Practise belly breathing daily for several weeks until you can do it almost anywhere, providing you with an instant relaxation tool anytime you need one.
CAUTION: Since some people get dizzy the first few times they try belly breathing, Healthwise advises that you slow your breathing if you begin to hyperventilate or become lightheaded. Get up slowly.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation. The body responds to tense thoughts or situations with muscle tension, which can cause pain or discomfort. Deep muscle relaxation reduces the muscle tension and mental anxiety. You can use an audiotape to help you go through all the muscle groups or you can do it by just tensing and relaxing each muscle group. Deep muscle relaxation is effective in combating stress-related health problems and often helps people get to sleep.
(How to tense muscle groups and relaxation response will be discussed next Monday, June 3, 2013. – J.P.)