Excess tension is stealing not only our peace, but the quality of our lives. Physically, when the body is under tension, the cardiovascular system is challenged, cholesterol and blood pressure increase, the breath becomes fast and shallow, nutrition is compromised as the body excretes vitamins and minerals rather than absorbing optimally from foods, muscles hold unnecessary tension for prolonged periods, and adequate sleep becomes harder to access. Psychologically, the mind wanders through racing patterns, focusing skills are challenged and a feeling of mental fatigue becomes the new normal. Our lives are moving at a faster pace all the time and we are subject to over-stimulation due to the way technology puts the world at our fingertips daily. As a result, we hold ourselves in a constant “fight or flight” pattern, the inherent protection of human beings gone awry due to living in the present time. Our bodies were not meant to be ready to “run from the tiger” 24/7 and nonetheless here we are. As a result we need to find and practice ways to release tension and quiet both body and mind.
Used for many centuries and ever-growing in popularity is the use of meditation. Though it is much talked about and much written about, many people spend more time learning about it yet not making the time to actually practice allowing the mind to have a break from its racing tendencies by experiencing the practice of meditation, the key being a “one pointed focus.” Most often than not it is deterring for beginners to begin a meditation practice because they find it too difficult to relax tense muscles, mush less wandering thoughts. So here is a sequence for relaxing the body by using your awareness to release tension of muscles before your meditation practice. Once you get into this habit, you will learn more about yourself: Where you tend to carry your physical tension and how to tap into using deep breathing more often. You will find yourself more energized with an improvement in your capacity to really focus on your day and on enjoying life!
A Sequence to Quiet the Body before Quieting the Mind
When you calm your body, the mind goes along with the program, allowing an ease into meditation, and opportunity for inward reflection. Experienced yoga teachers and students have learned to curate a systematic way to preface meditation with releasing muscular tension first. Sometimes it is through the use of an asana practice, to work off the harried energy of the nervous system.
At other times, it is through the use of awareness of the body with progressive relaxation. Try this systematic relaxation technique is aimed at the muscles and nervous system but take care not to let your mind wander as you travel through the body, progressively relaxing your muscles and quieting your nervous system. Part of this cultivated practice needs you to train your mind to stay alert and concentrate on your breath from beginning. Try to keep this practice to 5 to 10 minutes so that you also have time to add your meditation practice afterwards.
Lie in corpse pose, savasana, and close your eyes. Breathe slowly, deeply, and smoothly. Put your mind on your body and relax the top of the head, forehead, eyebrows, third eye (space between the eyebrows), eyes, eyelids, jaws, and nose and chin. Inhale and exhale deeply afterwards.
Relax the neck, shoulders, upper and lower arms, wrists, hands, fingers, and fingertips. Imagine exhaling from the fingertips to the nostrils, and inhaling back to the fingertips. Inhale and exhale deeply.
Relax the shoulders, upper back, and chest. Concentrate at the center of the chest, and Inhale and exhale deeply.
Relax the stomach, abdomen, lower back, hips, thighs, knees, calves, ankles, feet, and toes. Inhale and exhale deeply.
Then Inhale and exhale as if your entire body is breathing. Exhale tension, worries, and anxieties and negative thoughts; inhale vitality, tranquility, and positive energy and relaxation.
Now relax from the toes back to the crown of the head. Relax the toes, feet, ankles, calves, thighs, hips, knees, lower back, abdomen, stomach, and chest. Inhale and exhale deeply
Relax the upper back, shoulders, upper arms, lower arms, wrists, hands, fingers, and fingertips. Inhale and exhale deeply.
Relax the fingertips, fingers, hands, wrists, lower arms, upper arms, shoulders, neck, chin, jaw, mouth, and nostrils. Inhale and exhale deeply
Relax the jaws, eyelids, eyes, eyebrows, third eye space, forehead, and top of the head. Inhale and exhale deeply. Again, inhale and exhale as if your entire body is breathing. Now let your mind note the ease of your breath, since you let go the tension of the typical roadblocks. Note the ease in the flow of the breath. After a minute or two, slowly and gently roll to one side and come to a sitting position for your meditation practice. Once you are finished with your meditation, use essential oils to help you maintain the sense of calm and your aromatherapy will come to be more and more associated with your meditation practice and the tendency of the body to let go tension. Look to our aromatherapy recommendations in Essential Yoga Practice , and join us in our 2 week online course, Essential Yoga Sangha - book and DVD included in the cost of this fun, interactive course!