The Relaxed Body

The easiest technique to begin to train and discipline the body is progressive relaxation. It is amazing how many people do not know they are tense. Likewise, they have no real point of reference for knowing when the body is relaxed. Progressive relaxation addresses this deficit by a series of tensing and then relaxing sequences. You can learn this technique in a lying or sitting position.

First the body is tense, say by pulling the toes toward the head, or by making a fist, holding the tension as you inhale. Hold the tensed position for a few seconds. Next, exhale and allow the body to “let go and relax.” This continues through all the body parts until the entire body learns the difference between experiencing tension and experiencing relaxation.

Once you have learned the difference between tension and relaxation, you can begin autogenic relaxation. This time as you exhale and “let go and relax” also tell yourself that your body is becoming “heavier and warmer.” The “heavier” suggestion corresponds to the “dead weight” experience when someone is very relaxed. The “warmer” suggestion helps increase blood flow and encourage capillary dilation.

This technique allows you to choose the experience you want when relaxed. It creates a direct cause and affect link between being relaxed and some subjective resources experience. As a martial artist, I tend to want to be “lighter” as I become increasingly relaxed.

Our breathing rate and depth correlate to our emotional states. The nice thing is that our breathing rate and depth are also consciously controllable. Instead of tensing the body, take deep breaths in slowly by letting you stomach extend pulling your diaphragm down and filling the lower lunges.

Now hold the breath. As you slowly exhale, let your stomach come in and relax. At the end of the normal exhalation, push out a little extra air.

This creates a deeper emptying of the lunges and provides a natural vacuum for a deep inhalation. Each time you exhale, allow your body to relax even more. In time, just consciously paying attention to your breathing will allow you to relax the body and the mind.