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 practising various relaxation techniques. Image Relaxation Videos (IRV) focuses 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. As the tension abates, you focus on how the muscle groups feel. It is sometimes referred to as a mind-body technique.
  • 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 realisations about your emotional, spiritual, and physical health.
  • Meditation techniques - There are many forms of meditation and they involve focusing 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.
  • Guided meditation - Guided meditation is separate from meditations and is a relatively modern phenomenon. As the term suggests, guided meditation is assisted. It is an easy way to begin learning meditation and is usually based on one or more traditional meditation techniques. Positive affirmations are positive statements that describe and guide you to a desired state, situation or something you want. The are repeated to imprint the statements on your subconscious mind, which in turn strives and works on your behalf, to make the positive statements become reality.
  • Contemplation - This involves the thinking about a specific topic as a means of focusing the mind and is similar to mindfulness meditation. Quotations about a specific topic are an example and can be used to invoke your focused contemplation about the topic. Depending on the topic, the quotations can be meditative, relaxing 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.


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.


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.


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.


What Is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?

Progressive relaxation is a way of focusing your attention on each part of the body, being aware of any tension before relaxing that part and moving on. You physically tense and relax each area of your body, then as the tension abates, you focus on how the area feels. This 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.


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 realisations 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.


What Is Meditation And Mindfulness?

Some people consider meditation and mindfulness to be one and the same, some consider them to be different. One could describe meditation and mindfulness as awareness, where you are relaxed but at the same time you are also focused and aware on what you are doing right now. When you act with awareness you are also meditating or acting with mindfulness. Mindfulness is considered a specific form of meditation. Both techniques teach you to remain in the present moment, training your thoughts to be focused instead of letting them dart about untamed. However, meditation teaches you to specifically eliminate distracting thoughts to calm your mind. Mindfulness teaches you to simply be aware of distracting thoughts and accept them before returning to your mindfulness. There are different techniques, for example: breath control or focused gazing. You can still be meditating or being mindful when walking or listening to music. As long as your mind is free from distracting thoughts, you are meditating or being mindful.


What Is Contemplation?

Contemplation is the concentrated thinking of the mind about something such as an idea, a topic, a desired state of thought or state of existence. Contemplation is a practice that is practical and transforming with the capacity for developing deep concentration and the calming of your mind. Mindfulness is related to contemplation where you do not think about thoughts, but you do become aware of your thoughts. However, contemplation actually involves active 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.


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 use images but it is not limited to images.

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