In our everyday lives finding a way to slow things down and relax might not be quite as simple as it sounds. The stress of our work, home, and social lives, with the over-stimulation and constant communication of our increasingly technological age, can take control of our days (and nights for that matter.) Finding out how to relax can be beneficial for both our mental and physical wellbeing. Some experts suggest that relaxation techniques can be broken down into three sub-genres: Autogenic relaxation, muscle relaxation, and visualization. Autogenic relaxation involves conditioning the mind to move into a relaxed state. This relaxation technique can be achieved by the use of auditory queues or other sensory stimuli. The second group of relaxation techniques, progressive muscle relaxation, involves controlling your muscles and learning how to train them to relax. The third and final relaxation technique is visualization, in which someone attempts to go on a mental journey, guided by relevant and helpful stimuli, to help them achieve relaxation and conquer anxieties

The first key relaxation technique is called Autogenic Relaxation, with autogenic actually meaning “coming from within.” Proper use of this technique involves employing both visual imagery and bodily awareness to give the effect of a peaceful place that is free from stress. The repetition of an auditory phrase can be used to pull the mind away from the stress of reality. The final part of autogenic relaxation is focusing on a controlled, steady breathing pattern. This can help to lower the heart rate and may also cause a physical relaxation sensation. Yoga relaxation and breathing exercises are two examples of Autogenic Relaxation that combine mental awareness with breathwork activities.

Progressive muscle relaxation is different from autogenic relaxation because you are focusing directly on changing your physical state. Progressive muscle relaxation combines relaxation techniques to target your physical and mental wellbeing simultaneously. In this technique certain muscle groups are tensed and then relaxed. Usually this technique begins with the extremities of the body, such as fingers and toes. First you tense your fingers and toes, hold that pose for 5-10 seconds, release the tension, and follow it with a relaxation pose for at least 60 seconds. After this you would continue working towards the center of your body, repeating the pose on your stomach, legs, shoulders, and finally head.

Visualization is the third and least commonly used form of relaxation. In visualization a person is guided on a kind of journey through the mind’s eye in which he or she willingly confronts the underlying causes of stress. The roots of this stress can vary depending on the individual. In this relaxation technique one forms mental images and pictures to visually journey to a peaceful place. If you choose to imagine a serene forest, think of the smell of pine needles on the ground, the sound of the brisk wind flowing through the newly leafless trees, and the feeling of a rocky path under your feet. Imagining that all of your senses are implicated in your visualization journey is important for this relaxation technique to work. To achieve the maximum result from visualization you should be in a quiet, preferably dark room with no distractions, loosening any tight or binding articles of clothing.

All three of these techniques are easy to practice, but can sometimes be difficult to master. It is only after months, and sometimes even years of practice that they reach their full relaxation potential. The best way to see results from practicing these relaxation techniques is to make them part of your daily routine by trying to set aside 10 minutes every day to practice your new relaxation technique.


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