In today’s fast paced life, stress has become something like an inevitable consequence. Stress by itself is not always harmful. Its a normal reaction to external pressures. The effect of stress is to put our bodies in a state of alert through the release of hormones associated with our “fight response”. And stress is a somewhat relative concept too, affecting different people to varying degrees and is not always a synonym for distress. Situations like a steep roller coaster ride that cause fear and anxiety for some can prove highly pleasurable for others. Increased stress increases productivity up to a point, after which things rapidly deteriorate, and that level also differs for each of us.
However prolonged or repeated stress keeps our muscles in a constant state of tension, leading to cramps neck & shoulder pains and headaches. It challenges our immune system. All health care practitioners recognize that there is a direct co-relation between the levels of stress in one’s life and the occurrence of health problems, especially problems of cardio vascular and immune systems.
Change the way you breathe and you change your mood.
Ancient Ayurvedic scriptures describe the life force that resides in all living beings as ‘vata’. There are supposed to be five vatas of which the first one is called ‘prana’. Prana is the vata that controls breathing, intellect, emotions, senses, heart and mind. So if we can find a means to control the prana, we can inturn influence all the above faculties and functions under prana.
Yoga, a sister science of Ayurveda, dwelled deep into exploring the possibilities of influencing the prana. The omniscient yogis realized that the easiest way to influence the prana is by controlling its own functions, and the simplest one to control is the breathing. Based on this understanding, the master yogis developed the techniques of ‘pranayama’.
How we breathe affects the mind, and our mental state is reflected in our breathing patterns.
Rapid shallow breathing can make us anxious, drawing the breath in sharply can increase aggression. The breath is also the natural way in which we unconsciously release tension and restore energy. Both sighing and yawning are examples of involuntary therapeutic breathing.
Whenever you feel that mind is not tranquil- tense, worried, chattering, anxious, constantly dreaming- do one thing – try breathing slowly and rhythmically for a few minutes. The following techniques explained below if practiced properly will lead you to an experience of inner peace and blissful relaxation.
Blissful Deep Relaxation in 5 steps
- withdraw to a quiet room.
- make sure you will not be disturbed for at least 15 minutes.
- wear loose fitting clothes (no shoes) but ensure that you will not be cold.
- make yourself very comfortable either lying down or sitting.
- Have an intension to relax. Just say yourself “this time is for me to relax as deeply as I can” will be enough to tune yourself.
- take a warm shower or bath
- put on a soothing background music. eg: Instrumental, music for meditation or sounds of nature like the sea, running water or bird songs
STEP – 1
Aim: To relax from sensory stimulation and overload.
Technique: Passive awareness.
Take a few slow deep breaths.
Become aware of the tension around the eyes.
Unfocus them (keeping eyes closed) until they feel very soft.
Listen passively to the sounds around you.
After few minutes of this, move on to step 2.
STEP – 2
Aim: To feel safe and calm enough to let go of negativity (at least temporarily)
Enjoy a fantasy about being where you would like to be right now.
Visualize a place or a situation in which you feel totally safe, loved and supported, feel free from tension. Imagine yourself relaxing there and feeling totally contented. If your special place does not come immediately to mind. You could enjoy returning to your favorite beach (or creating your ideal one).How would it feel to be on holiday right now? Relax and try to enjoy the feeling…
STEP – 3
Aim: To feel relief from the chatter inside your head ie: random thinking.
Technique: Focus on something calming and repetative.
Observe your breath. Observe the filling and emptying of the abdomen and the chest during inhalation and exhalation.
Observe the quality and texture of the breath (Is it smooth or ragged, shallow or deep?)
Focous on the breath as it enters the nostrils and leaves the nostrils.
Become aware of your breath without changing it in anyway
Simply count after each exhalation “ONE…. (Breathe in …….Breathe out…) TWO…..THREE………till TEN”
Then start another round with “ONE….
After few rounds of counting, substitute with the mantra AUM.. AUM. AUM.
You will notice that the mind slowly becomes still and peacefull, unclutterd with noisy thoughts.
This is the time to move on to
STEP – 4
Aim: To let go
Allow yourself to relax more and more deeply into the body while keeping a totally passive, allowing attitude to all sense impressions thoughts or feelings. Get the muscles to let go of holding tensions so as to experience deeper and deeper levels of body and mind relaxation. Don’t resist’ Don’t hold back’ Let go
STAGE 1 – Eyes closed, unfocused, just listening (2 minutes)
STAGE 2 – Visualization (5 minutes)
STAGE 3 – Counting the breath plus mantra (3 minutes).
STAGE 4 – Total Passivity… Let Go (5 minutes)
Note that the suggested timing is flexible. It is an individual experience. There is no unique system valid for everyone.
Think of it rather as a daily and healthy treat you give yourself and enjoy.
“Loka samastha sukhino bhavanthu”.
[May the world be blessed with peace and happiness]