Relaxation can be a fickle thing. Oftentimes, we talk about it like it’s an elusive thing that we have to chase, like it’s outside of ourselves. Too many times, we think that it is something bequeathed upon us. While these outside things can help, and be wonderful boosts to mood and life (and sometimes a bit of external help is extra relaxing because it gives you a kind of double break) if we don’t build skill with techniques for ourselves, it will always be something that seems out of grasp instead of something that can be present in our lives and available to be called upon whenever we need or want it.
Progressive Relaxation Practices
Visualization can be a good method to help jumpstart a relaxation practice. There are several ways to go about this. You can picture yourself in a quiet, serene environment such as a beach or the woods. Try to bring in as much sensory exploration as you can. What does the water smell like? How warm is the sand? What birds do you hear? The other side of visualization is less environmental and more of a personal work process. In this, you imagine stress, negativity or intrusive thoughts as leaving the body with the exhalation of the breath. It could be a dark smoke or some other substance leaving through the nose or the feet or even out of the pores.
Bruce Kumar Frantzis, an Internal martial artist who has released myriad books and videos, talks about a “Lao Tzu meditation” where you sit or lay quietly and feel through the body and release the “four states;” things that are held onto with strength, tension, pressure/compression, or if something is “just not right.” There’s no judgment to this or trying to figure out the why, just feeling for those things and then releasing them with the breath.
Another technique that’s amazing for progressive relaxation is called the “Red Pine meditation.” In this technique, the practitioner goes through a series of points in the body and, combined again with breathing, tells those spots to relax. Some visualizations can be used for this like knots untying or ice melting, or any other way that helps the person meditating be able to let those areas relax and open. You can either start at the top of the head and work down, or start from the feet and work up, inhaling and bringing your awareness into the spot and then relaxing it with the exhale. You can spend as long as you like or need to with each place. While there is a prescribed series of points and places, the joints for instance, that is taught with this, the real lesson in this is the method of bringing your awareness to a point and allowing it to relax with the breath and working through the whole body in this fashion.
Other methods teach tensing a muscle and then relaxing it. This isn’t really “relaxation.” It might be a good method for bringing awareness into the body and getting used to feeling specific muscles especially if the person is new to working out, but it doesn’t help with a progressive relaxation routine. It brings in too much tension and the relaxation part is just letting the area go back to the, at best, status quo it was before tensing. It’s better to start from a relaxed point and learn how to deepen it.
Meditation Workshops & Relaxation at Stella Luna
What we want with relaxation, and really any positive habits, is to build practices that cannot be taken away from you if you happen to not have access to the outside thing that you might use regularly. The techniques given above are neither a comprehensive nor exhaustive list of the practices that one can find or practice, but merely a few places to start. These techniques are also not wholly sacrosanct, they do not have to be done in the exact way set out in this writing. These things can be adapted and modified as best befits the practitioner. The regular practice of relaxation builds awareness in the body and the feelings that manifest therein as well as trains the practitioner to relax faster and more thoroughly.
At Stella Luna, our practitioners run meditation workshops to help guide you toward the progressive relaxation your mind and body needs. Check our events page regularly for upcoming classes and workshops that might interest you, or book a wellness session with one of our practitioners today and treat yourself to the care and attention you deserve.
John has a Bachelors in Communication from Cleveland State University and has made a career in child and adolescent mental health, working in residential, community, and day treatment settings in a variety of roles. He has also spent over 24 years training in Chinese Internal Arts, most of that time he has also been instructing. On top of all this, John has a rich work history which includes retail, performance, fitness, and construction.