Relaxation is the opposite of tension. The following exercise can be a tool for you to use to control tension and enhance relaxation in both your body and your mind. It will probably be most useful to you if you or a friend would tape record the following exercise and listen to it rather than to just try to read and remember the various parts of the exercise. Read the exercise slowly with pauses to allow the relaxation to occur. If you do make a tape for yourself, please remember to use it only when you are sitting or lying comfortably at home or where you are not needing to be involved in an activity requiring you to be fully alert. Do not use the tape while operating any kind of machinery, including cars. One of the main activities suggested in this exercise involves alternatively tensing and relaxing muscle groups. Put enough tension into the muscles to make them tense, but not enough to cause pain. Feeling pain means that you are tensing too much.
Tension Reducing Exercise
Settle back and get as comfortable as you possibly can. Close your eyes gently. Tune in to your breathing. (Pause) Notice its pace and rhythm. (Pause) take another breath, a little deeper this time, letting yourself feel completely calm, peaceful, comfortable and relaxed. (Pause) Now, with the rest of your body feeling more and more comfortable and relaxed, slowly clench your right fist. Clench it tighter and tighter and study the tension. Keep it clenched and feel the tension in your fist, hand, and forearm. (Short Pause) Now let your hand relax and go limp, allowing your fingers to become loose. Notice the contrast between the feeling of tension and now the feeling of relaxation. (Short Pause) Let your whole body go and relax even more completely. (Short Pause) Now bend both of your elbows and tense your biceps. Tense them hard until they almost quiver. Hold them tight and study the tension. (Short Pause) Now let your arms straighten out and drop gently to your sides. go limp, feeling heavy and relaxed. Notice the tension leave your muscles and experience relaxation that replaces the tension. Let the feeling flow and spread into the rest of your body so that you feel peaceful and calm. Feel yourself becoming more and more relaxed. (Pause) (From this point onward, pause where it seems appropriate to allow enough time for the tensing and relaxing to occur.)
Focus all your attention on your neck, your shoulders, and your upper back. As you breathe, imagine that you are releasing tension from your neck, shoulders, and upper back. With each breath you take, feel your neck, shoulders, and upper back grow heavier and more and more relaxed. As you release tension in your arms, neck, shoulders, and upper back, feel the wave of relaxation moving downwards through your torso, lower back and stomach. With each breath, you become more and more relaxed.
Now tighten and flex the muscles in your buttocks and thighs. You can flex your thighs by pressing down on your heels with your toes in the air. Hold the tension. Keep the muscles tight and tense. now let go. Relax and notice the difference as you let your hips and thighs relax and allow that feeling to proceed on its own until you feel completely and deeply relaxed.
Now press your toes straight out away from your body as if you were on tiptoes. Feel the muscles in your calves become taught and tense. Hold the tension. Study the tension and now relax. Feel the difference between the tension and the delightful, calm, peaceful feeling of being deeply relaxed. Feel the heaviness of your entire lower body as you relax further still.
If you wish, you can become even more deeply relaxed by merely taking a deep breath and slowly exhaling. As you breath deeply, feel your entire body become heavy, comfortable and relaxed. Think the following thoughts to yourself: "I feel quiet. I am feeling deeply relaxed. My body feels calm and quiet. My neck, my jaws, my forehead are all calm and smooth. My whole body is heavy, comfortable, relaxed, and quiet. My arms and hands are heavy and warm. I am at peace." (At this point, give yourself a few more minutes of deep relaxation before moving on toward ending the relaxation session.)
(Ending the experience) Take a deep breath, wiggle your toes and open your eyes. when you do so you will feel refreshed and calm.
Enhancing the Experience
You can practice deepening this feeling of relaxation by taking deep breaths and releasing tension with each exhalation and imagining a wave of relaxation moving from the top of your head to the ends of your toes. As you become aware, through this exercise, of different muscle groups and how deliberately you can control the experience of tension and relaxation in your muscles, you increase your capacity to relax. In similar fashion, each time you practice this relaxation exercise you will find it more familiar and easier to use.