by Claire N. Agard, PhD, CCTP
This exercise can take 15 minutes or more. Make sure that you have enough time to dedicate to it. You’ll pay attention to each part of your body, beginning with your head and ending with your feet. You’ll look for tension in each part and, if you find any, relax the muscles in that area. The goal of this exercise is to, over time, become more and more aware of tension in your body and relax the area(s) no matter where you may be. You may use this audio as a guide each time you perform this exercise until you’re able to do it without the guide. If you prefer, you may continue to use the audio whenever you perform this exercise.
This exercise can be performed either lying down or sitting…which ever feels more comfortable to you. If you sit, let your shoulders drop, place both feet firmly on the ground and your hands in your lap. If lying down, place your hands at your sides. In either position, you may turn your palms up or down…which ever feels more comfortable to you.
Close your eyes or, if you prefer to, keep them open. If you keep them open, bring your gaze to the ground or chose one object in the room and focus on it. Now, breathe in deeply…and out deeply. Feel your diaphragm move up as you breathe in and down as you breathe out. Bring your awareness to your lungs expanding as you breathe in and deflating as your breath out. (Brief pause). Keep breathing in… and out… Focus only on your breath as you breathe in…and out. (Pause for about 1 minute). As you do this exercise, you may find that there are parts of your body that have no tension. When that happens, focus on them, on the state of relaxation in those areas. Keep breathing as you savor the relaxed feeling.
Your mind may sometimes wander or you may become distracted by your thoughts. It’s okay if that happens…there is no need to judge yourself… just be accepting of and kind to yourself. Bring your thoughts back to the sensations in your body. (Pause).
Continue to breathe as you bring your attention to your head. Is there any tension in your face? If so, breath in relaxation and breathe out tension… Keep doing this as you focus on all parts of your head and face, your temples, your mouth. If there is tension in the muscles of any of those areas focus on that tension and on getting rid of it. Let your face go soft as you relax those muscles…Breathe in, deeply, slowly…and breathe out the tension, slowly. Just let it go! Keep breathing… (Pause).
Now, move down, bringing your awareness to your neck and shoulders. Notice the sensations there. If there is tension, breathe in to relax and out to get rid of the tension. Slowly and deeply….breathe in and out…Let your shoulders soften. Keep breathing until that tension has been completely released. Bring your awareness to your arms. Slowly move down to your wrists and then to your fingers. Breathe as you let go of any tension in those areas. (Pause). First, focus on your left arm, wrist, and fingers. (Pause). Now focus on your right arm, wrist, and fingers. Breathe in…and out…(Pause). If your mind wanders, bring your awareness back to your breath and to your arm, wrist, and fingers. You know that it’s okay if your mind wanders…
Move to your belly. Focus on your stomach, your gut because it’s here that often feels the result of tension. Breathe in 1-2-3…focus on the area from your shoulders all the way to the bottom of your belly. Now breathe out 1-2-3. Keep breathing as you rid your belly of all tension and usher in relaxation. Feel your belly soften. (Pause). Now move your attention to your back…gradually move down your back, from top
to bottom. Are the muscles anywhere in your back tense? They may not be. If they are, keep your awareness on them and relax them as you breathe in…and out…If you need to spend more time here, do so as you keep breathing. (Pause).
Move your awareness to your thighs, slowly move down to your knees then to your legs. Notice the muscles in your calves. If there is tension there, breathe in relaxation 1-2-3…and breathe out tension 1-2-3. Keep breathing until those muscles are completely relaxed. (Pause). Now, move your awareness to your left foot. Focus on it as you keep breathing. (Pause). Slowly move your focus to your right foot as you keep breathing in….and out…(Pause).
Bring your awareness to the sensations in your entire body. Recognize that it’s now completely relaxed. There is no tension anywhere. With gratitude keep your awareness on your relaxed body as you keep breathing. (Pause).
With one, last, deep breath in, bring your awareness back to the present. Breathe out…If your eyes were closed, slowly open them when you’re ready to do so. Know and accept that you’ll continue your day feeling relaxed, refreshed, and grateful. Know too that you can recapture these feelings whenever you like no matter where you are.