TWENTY SOURCES OF RELAXATION
Michael S. Isaacs
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We all want to relax more. But exactly what is relaxation, and how can we move towards this state?
This article will focus on twenty sources of relaxation together with a brief discussion.
They are exercise, bodywork, nutrition, herbs and supplements, sexuality, music, sleep, nature, hobbies, humor, miscellaneous techniques, human relationships, imagery, affirmations, breathing techniques, yoga, gratitude consciousness, meditation, wisdom, and spirituality.
To understand relaxation, three key concepts should be understood – letting go, slowing down, and moderation.
The importance of letting go is indicated in the “lax” in the word relaxation. It comes from the Latin word “laxare”, to let go. Physically, we need to let go of muscular tension lest we develop backaches, headaches, and neck stiffness. Mentally, we need to let go of excessive preoccupation with past and future concerns. To those on spiritual paths, they need to gradually replace human will with more of the divine will.
As to slowing down, to relax we want, in whatever way we are drawn to, to slow down body and mind. Maybe we can learn a thing or two from the song “Feeling Groovy”, by Simon and Garfunkel: “Slow down/you move too fast/Going to make the morning last…” Slowing down body and mind can be accomplished by modalities covered in this article such as yoga, breathing, and meditation
Lastly, moderation is in order. Among the 20 ways to relaxation covered in this article can be counter-productive if done in the extreme. For example, excessive jogging can weaken the body by overstressing hips, feet, and knees. Compulsive excess exercise can become one more onerous duty and energy drain – hardly relaxing.
There are two types of relaxation. One I will call the “quiet relaxation response” (type 1). The other I will designate as the “movement relaxation response” (type 2). Both should be included in an ideal relaxation plan.
Type 1 relaxation is the state of well-being outlined by Dr. Herbert Benson in his 1974 book, The Relaxation Response. This type is a physiological response marked by slower breathing, decreased heart rate, and more peaceful brain waves. Deep breathing, yoga, and meditation are three activities that can bring on this type of relaxation.
Type 2 relaxation does not cause the physiological and mental responses mentioned above. However, they can be relaxing because they are diverting and usually enjoyable. So, for example, aerobic exercises are relaxing since bodily well-being is pleasurable. Aerobic exercises do not have the advantage of slowing down body and mind while in progress, but can lead to a relaxed state thereafter when the body and mind settle down.
In my opinion an ideal would be for folks to include both type 1 and 2 relaxation modalities in their life.
This article can help you open up to consider and add one or more of the twenty paths to integrate more relaxation modalities discussed in this article, and illustrated in the relaxation circle shown on the diagram on the first page
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