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Love Yourself: Learning to Relax

Ancient cultures embraced the practices of yoga, qi gong, and prayer to relax along with meditation—training the mind to achieve an insight to the self.

But making relaxation techniques work for you comes with practice. Calming the mind and feeling the “aaah” is what comes from total relaxation. And connecting the mind, body, and spirit is known as reaching a Zen state.

The breath is the focal point. Proper breathing is vital to each of the following relaxation techniques because it causes you to empty your mind and coordinate your movements around the breath.

Yoga

The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit yug, meaning "to bring into balance". For beginners, the tree pose or tadasana is recommended to get the feeling of concentration and balance.

Practice:
  1. Stand with feet beneath your shoulders. Place your hands along your sides and take a deep diaphragmatic breath in and out slowly through the nose.
  2. As you breathe in, focus on a point in front of you and lift one foot, placing it on the side of your opposite leg, below or at the knee. Imagine yourself as a tree, rooted in the ground.
  3. Raise your arms, bringing your palms together in a prayer pose over your head.
  4. Hold the pose as long as you can then repeat with the other leg.
  5. Continue to breathe through the nose. Your focus and duration will increase over time.
Qi Gong

Pronounced chee-kung, qigong is an ancient Chinese art that incorporates subtle movements with breathing.

The body's life force, chi or qi, is its energy. Gong refers to a practiced skill, one which has been perfected by repetition.

Tai Chi is the gentlest form of qigong. The objective in this practice movement is to feel as though you are in soft motion, floating on calm moving water.

Practice:
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Focus on your body's center, just below the navel.
  2. Inhale and rock forward on your feet while raising your arms to the sides as if they were being lifted on a wave. You don’t need to lift your heels, just shift your weight.
  3. As you exhale, lower your arms and shift your weight back to your heels.

If you have ever been in the ocean and allowed yourself to be lifted and floated along with the gentle waves, this is the motion you’re trying to achieve.

Pilates

Pilates, pronounced pill-ah-tees, is named for Joseph Pilates who created this method of connecting mind and body.

The mind must focus on the proper position of the body for each exercise in order to integrate the two. Pilates can improve spinal mobility, posture, flexibility and endurance, abdominal strength, and bone density.

The roll up exercise can be done by beginners.

Practice:
  1. Lie on your back. Breathe in as you slowly raise your arms over your head and onto the floor behind you, keeping your back flat.
  2. As you exhale roll forward and curl your spine up off the floor keeping your stomach tucked.
  3. Reach out over your legs keeping your neck neutral. Inhale.
  4. Exhale as you roll back down to the floor.
  5. Repeat without pausing, remembering to breathe in again as you start.

Walking

Walking doesn’t need much of an explanation. It lowers blood pressure, improves strength and endurance, and tones the body.

A gentle walk at a moderate pace is an opportunity to commune with nature, unwind and connect with your inner self.

Concentrate on your breathing. Find a peaceful spot, stop and rest, taking in the sounds and movements of nature.

Practice:
  1. While walking, focus on leading with the heel of the foot and rolling the foot from heel to toe rather than slamming it down.
  2. Keep the foot centered below the ankle so the weight is evenly distributed, without rotating the foot inward (pronating) or outward (supinating).
  3. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed and let your arms swing naturally.
  4. Breathe in and out through the nose.

Concentrating on this will help you relax rather than rush through your walk.

Palming

At some point, most of us will experience eyestrain from viewing digital media, driving, or watching television. Palming is an excellent way to relax your eyes.

Practice:
  1. With your eyes open, use your cupped hands to cradle your eyes without touching them.
  2. Be sure that no light is allowed to enter beneath the palm.
  3. If you can remain in this position for a few minutes, do so, but any amount of time spent palming will make a surprising difference in the way your eyes feel.
  4. You can do one eye at a time and do it throughout the day. This is simple movement that works.

But what’s the real point? You can relax when you’re sleeping, right?

When you’re asleep, you’re not consciously aware of what’s going on around you. Your body will repair and rebuild, but very often people toss around in their sleep and even frown as the mind tries to work out waking problems.

Conscious relaxation includes the mind and body, so make this a daily routine. In the end, you’ll work better, sleep better, and begin to see life through a new lens.

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