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HOW TO BE MINDFUL: EXERCISE 5 – MUSCLE RELAXATION

Back with the mindfulness exercise of the day – muscle relaxation. We usually associate mindfulness with relaxation. The idea of serenely experiencing the present, just as it is, without judging or evaluating the moment is soothing and relaxing.

Today, we will take this understanding forward and explain a relaxation technique which is about mindfully watching your body and relaxing it. We’ll call it, Mindful Muscle Relaxation. When most of us say relaxation, we mean relaxation of the mind. Even so, mental relaxation and bodily relaxation are not mutually exclusive. But more on that in a couple of days. For now, in this technique we will exclusively focus on relaxing the body, mindfully. Often our muscles have tensed up even without our knowledge. Pain in the head, back, shoulders is becoming increasingly common. This tension is the body’s way of coping with the continuous onslaught of stress. The body seems to prep up to deal with stress but rarely gets a moment of deliberate intentional letting go. Here is where mindful muscle relaxation can greatly help.

This technique involves focusing and feeling the tension in one part of your body, and then releasing it. Making this practice a part of your daily life helps you deal with fatigue and anxiety. It will also make you aware of the extent to which stress actually gets to your body. Repeated practice of muscle relaxation will also help bring a balance between your mind and your body and counter the ill effects of existent stress.

How do we begin with Muscle Relaxation?

  1. Begin with sitting in a quiet place. You can lie down on the floor, or sit back comfortably on a chair
  2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths for a couple of minutes (Refer to the previous blog on meditating while breathing)
  3. Now focus your awareness on your hands, your fingers, and your wrist. Notice if there is any tension or stress there.
  4. Remember to feel the tension (It could make you uncomfortable initially, but the idea is to know how tension feels and then how relaxation feels, all while being very aware and observant)
  5. Focus on the tension and sensations in that area for a few seconds. Notice if anything changes. (Remember the idea is not to change the sensation but to know it as you move from part to part.)
  6. Then loosen your hands, let go of all physical tension in the hands.
  7. Continue to breathe slowly as you feel the release of tension from your hands. Don’t stress about whether the tension has completely gone or not, just move slowly to the next part.
  8. Enjoy this release and feel relaxed.
  9. You can repeat this process with different parts of your body. Usually going part by part from head to foot is suggested. For instance start from the top of your head and move downwards to the face, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, abdomen, upper back, lower back and so on.

Remember to go through each step, slowly, mindfully, just to feel your body and not worry about what this means or whether you are doing it right.

Listen to a Guided Body Scan Meditation :

Making this process a part of your daily routine will help you curb a lot of your stress and be more relaxed while at work, or at home. More so, it will help you know how truly tension and relaxation feel. Just being aware of your body will help a whole deal with caring for it, and for yourself.

We also recommend that you watch the following video, as it will guide you through the process of Mindful Relaxation.

Do share with us your experiences with mindful living through comments on our site.

Image Credit: sylar_major

About the Author: Bijal Oza is a Counselor and Psychologist at Inner Space – A center for counseling and psychological assessment. You can know more about her here. You can follow Inner Space on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ for reading more articles of this kind from all around the web and for updates on our work.

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