Active Relaxation Techniques

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What Are Active Relaxation Techniques?

To effectively counteract stress, anxiety and tension you need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response. You can do this by practicing various relaxation techniques. Image Relaxation Videos (IRV) focusses on the use of active relaxation techniques such as:

  • Breathing relaxation – There are various breathing techniques. A popular one is deep breathing where you place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly as you take slow, deep breaths. Two other breath techniques are the complete breath and the bumble bee breath.
  • Autogenic relaxation – Autogenic means something that comes from within you. In this relaxation technique, you use both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress. You repeat words or suggestions in your mind to relax and reduce muscle tension.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation – In this relaxation technique, you focus on slowly but actively tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in your body.
  • Guided imagery – This involves listening to a guided imagery audio to move you into a state of deep relaxation. Once you are in a relaxed state, the images that come up in your mind can help you uncover important realizations about your emotional, spiritual, and physical health.
  • Meditation – There are many forms of meditation and they involve focussing on something. The most popular forms are Transcendental Meditation where a mantra is repeated, and mindfulness meditation where the focus of attention is on thoughts and sensations. Other forms of meditation include the use of positive affirmation and quotations as the focus of attention.
  • Positive affirmations – This involves the repeated use of positive statements that describe a desired state, situation or something you want. The repetitions imprint the statements on your subconscious mind, which in turn strives and works on your behalf, to make the positive statements become reality.
  • Quotation contemplation – This involves the use of quotations as a means of focus and is similar to mindfulness meditation. In this case, a series of quotations about a specific topic are used to invoke your focussed contemplation about the topic. Depending on the topic, the quotations can be both meditative and entertaining.

By making time for relaxation activities in your life you can help reduce your everyday stress, tension or anxiety; boost your energy and mood; and bring your nervous system back into balance.


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What Is Pranayama?

Pranayama means breath (Prana) control (Ayama), which helps cleanse and strengthen your body and mind by controlling your prana or vital energy. If you consciously control your breath then more oxygen enters the body, which helps burn up nutrients and provide more energy to your body.
Breathing deeply can provide additional oxygen to your brain, which in turn helps relieve tension headaches and has calming effects on your mind. The breath can improve your concentration, help to control your emotions and relax your body.


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How Do Breathing Techniques Benefit Me?

By practising breathing techniques you can improve your concentration, help control your emotions and relax your body. Slow, smooth breaths, bring a sense of peace and harmony and can be created naturally through emotions such as joy, love and forgiveness. Therefore you can recreate these feelings through consciously controlling the breath. As your nervous system can control your emotions and breathing, then by bringing your breath under control you can also control your emotions.
If you are suffering from painful emotions like sadness, anger or resentment your breath can have great benefits by bringing your nervous system back into balance. This is done by reducing the effect of your sympathetic nervous system which is activated during your “fight” or “flight” response and stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system which promotes rest and relaxation.


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What Is Autogenic Relaxation?

Autogenic relaxation is where you tell yourself that you are relaxed and the body follows. Suggesting to your mind that you feel relaxed and calm allows your body to respond in the same way. It is used to enhance the physical effects of progressive relaxation, working a bit like a Mantra or positive thought that you repeat to yourself. This continued suggestion that each body part feels relaxed and heavy results in the physical body responding in the same way. This can have a calming and soothing effect on your mind and give your body a chance to let go, relaxing tight muscles and relieving aches and pains.


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What Is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?

Progressive relaxation is a way of focussing your attention on each part of the body, being aware of any tension before relaxing that part and moving on. Physically tensing and relaxing each area of your body, helps focus your mind and stop thoughts wandering as well as allowing your body to let go of any stress or strain. Progressive relaxation draws your awareness to each part of your body and encourages it to relax. Taking one body part at a time, physically tensing and relaxing your body part and letting thoughts drift away, provides a very effective way for you to relax.


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What Is Guided Imagery?

Guided imagery is a relaxation technique where you listen to guided imagery audio, to help guide you to a state of deep relaxation. Once you are in a relaxed state, the images that come up in your mind can help you uncover important realizations about your emotional, spiritual, and physical health.
Guided imagery is a gentle but powerful technique that focuses and directs your imagination in proactive, positive ways. Guided imagery can use not only your visual sense but all of your senses.


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What Is Meditation?

One could describe meditation as mindfulness or awareness, where you are relaxed but at the same time you are also focussed and aware on what you are doing right now. When you act with awareness you are also meditating.
Meditation techniques teach you to remain in the present moment, training your thoughts to be focussed instead letting them dart about untamed. There are different techniques, for example: breath control or candle gazing. You can still be meditating when walking or listening to music. As long as your mind is free from distracting thoughts, you are meditating.


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What Are Positive Affirmations?

With Positive affirmations, your words and your thoughts are used to program your mind in a similar way in which software commands are used to program computers. Positive statements are repeated in order to help you focus your mind on what you want. These statements create mental images in your conscious mind, which then affect your subconscious mind. In other words, you are using your will to program your subconscious mind and is a form of visualization.
By using positive affirmations in a conscious way and with intent, you can influence your subconscious mind, and change your habits, behaviours, attitudes, reactions and lifestyle. The time these affirmations take to bring about results varies from immediately to a couple of hours, to days, weeks or even longer. Your success depends on your focus, belief, strength of desire, the depth of feeling you put into your affirmations and the scale of what you want. If your affirmations are about relaxation then you can use these relaxation affirmations to create a more relaxed lifestyle.


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What Is Quotation Contemplation?

Quotation contemplation is a practice that is practical and transformative with the capacity for developing deep concentration and the calming of your mind. Mindfulness meditation is considered a form of contemplation where you do not think about thoughts, but you do become aware of your thoughts. However, contemplation actually involves thinking about something.
During contemplation you explore the meaning, purpose and values associated with a topic to help you create focus and thus exclude distractions and create a state of calmness. Contemplation helps you develop greater empathy and communication skills, improve your ability to focus your attention, and reduce stress, tension or anxiety.


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How Can I Benefit From Meditation?

Meditation gives you the opportunity to be calm and relax your mind and body. By focusing your mind on something, for example: a candle or a visualisation, you can free your mind of busy thoughts and help to rest your brain and reduce stress. Meditation reduces your heart rate and provides your body with an opportunity to revive. Longer term, continuous practice can lead you to a different view on life, bringing you happiness, harmony and inner peace. A variety of studies have proven that meditation can improve your health in a number of ways:

  • Decreased heart rate;
  • Lower blood pressure;
  • Quicker recovery from stress and reduction of anxiety;
  • Boosts the immune system;
  • Increased calming Alpha brainwaves;
  • A balance between left and right brain activity;
  • Reduced cholesterol;
  • Deeper slower breathing;
  • Muscle relaxation;
  • Pain is less intense;
  • More happiness and peace of mind;
  • Fewer negative emotions and mood swings;
  • More empathy and understanding of self and others.


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Where Is A Good Place To Start With Meditation?

A good place to start with meditation is through your breath. Focussing your attention on your breath will help you develop concentration skills and also calm your mind.


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Why Do I Find It Difficult To Practice Meditation?

With meditation you are attempting to retrain yourself to be focussed and stay in the present moment, but your mind likes to resist. You are likely to be experiencing challenging emotions or a restless mind or feel uncomfortable during your meditation. Your mind will try to avoid doing anything that it finds difficult to do. It is a lot easier to permit your mind to dart about in the usual chaotic way it normally does instead of maintaining attention or focus. If you are aware that your mind is being resistant then this will help you to overcome your resistance. If you bring your awareness to your thoughts and feelings then this will help you overcome problems as they arise. With continued practice you will be able to achieve a calmer state of mind.


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How Does Meditation Differ From Relaxation?

There are many different ways to simply relax. For example, using techniques especially designed to achieve relaxation, or where you simply find yourself feeling relaxed through doing something pleasurable, like sitting in the sun, walking in the park or listening to music. Meditation is a technique practised in the mind to train yourself to be more aware of the here and now. When you meditate, relaxation is a lovely side effect, not the goal. Meditation also offers you greater benefits like: better self-knowledge; clarity of thought; focus and wellbeing, etc.


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Is Guided Imagery Also Self-Hypnosis?

Yes, in a one sense guided imagery is also a type of self-hypnosis which is limited to the use of imagery. However, guided imagery can be considered a sub-category of self-hypnosis which may use just verbal suggestion and thoughts without images. For example, telling yourself that you will be calm and confident qualifies as self-hypnosis, whereas seeing yourself calm and confident, in sights, sounds or feelings is imagery. Self-hypnosis may also uses images but it is not limited to images.


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Can You Give An Example Of A Mind-Body Technique?

Dr. Edmund Jacobson developed a technique called progressive muscle relaxation in the 1920s. With this technique you tense a muscle group, then after relaxing the muscle group, as the tension abates, you focus on how the muscle group feels.