Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meditation 2: Simple Muscle Relaxation Mediatation

As promised, here is a simple meditation for you to try. It works by taking our attention away from our thoughts and the busy-ness of the mind, instead bringing the focus back into our body and breath. 

You can meditate lying or sitting in a comfortable position, perhaps easy cross legged or leaning against a wall. If you cannot sit without slouching in the spine however, it is best for you to lie. You can also put pillows or a blanket under your knees when lying to alleviate back pain or curvature of the spine. The following exercise is definitely best done lying down however. Keep your arms rested by your side, apart from the body, and let the legs fall open, feet relaxing out to the sides.

Wear comfy clothes and no shoes. Turn off your phone and make sure you are free from distractions.

Firstly, bring attention to your breath, noticing if it is deep or shallow, fast or slow. Are you getting enough oxygen to really revitalise your body with each breath? Start breathing deeply into the body, first feeling the chest expand upwards and sideways, and then filling the belly. Exhale fully from the belly - try sighing with the exhale to release all the tension and air. The more over-dramatic the sigh the better! Do this a couple times until you feel the tension leave your body.

Feel your body begin to sink deeply into the floor. If your mind is busy or you notice thoughts arise, gently bring the mind back to the breath. Acknowledge the thought, but do not follow it or ruminate on it's content; watch it like you would a cloud in the sky. If it helps you can remind your mind that you will be free in ten minutes to think about this, but this is your time to practice having a calm and quiet mind. This normally helps the thoughts to dissipate.

Start at the top of the head, focussing all your attention into this area, and feeling the back of your head relaxing heavily into the floor. Some people like to imagine a glowing light or aura around the are they are focussing on but if that is too hippie-ish for you let it go. Now start tensing and relaxing the muscles of your face - start by scrunching your whole face up and release, then close your eyes as closely as you can then relax them. Feel the eyeballs sink right back in the sockets on the release. Open your mouth wide and unclench your jaw, feel the jawbones relax. 

Then work your way down the body, tensing and releasing as you go. Start with the shoulders, then upper back. Then ball your right hand into a fist, tensing the arm and holding the fist for three seconds then releasing. Do the same on the left. Tense and release your belly, your low back, your buttocks, then your left leg and toes, then right leg and toes. Ball your toes and hold like you did the fist. Try to tense on the inhale, release on the exhale.

Once you have relaxed all the body parts simply lie and become aware of the new feelings of relaxation and release in the body. If any parts are still feeling tense, repeat the contraction on that area, and mentally encourage the area to "let go". 

Lie there for a few minutes enjoying the relaxation in your body. Again, don't become attached to any thoughts that come into the mind - don't try to "stop" them (impossible!), but simply acknowledge them and then let them pass. Focus on the breath.

When you are ready to come out of this meditation, begin by wiggling your fingers and toes to get some movement back into the body, then raise and stretch the arms out long above the head, stretching out your entire body for a few moments before you arise. 


Hope you find this helpful - and don't worry if your mind is super busy or you find it difficult to relax. That's all part of the practice, and it's actually a learned skill not to think. Even by attempting and perhaps failing you are still working on gaining this ability :)

It can be difficult to do this through reading the script yourself, so unless you can find a patient friend or loved one to read it out in my relaxing broga voice it may help to follow along to a guided meditation through your speakers or headphone. Here are three good ones I have found on youtube:

This site also offers some free downloadable meditations: Progressive Relaxation Exercises

There are plenty of them online and on youtube so search until you find one that "resonates" with you. And let me know in the comments if you find any good ones :)

Happy relaxing brogis!

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