For many poor sleepers learning how to relax is easier than getting to sleep. Learning relaxation techniques often helps them get through the transition from feeling relaxed to falling asleep. It also helps relax the body easing muscle tension and calming the mind.
Relaxation can be learnt and many people find yoga, tai chi, meditation, relaxation classes and CDs helpful.
Relaxation can be done anywhere and requires little more than a quiet space. It is important to feel warm and comfortable and not be disturbed. Find a time when you will not be bothered – leave a sign outside the bedroom door if you have small intruders in the house!
Relaxation is not sleep so you can set aside time knowing that you will feel refreshed and better able to cope after your session. Your aim is to relax and calm the mind, which will help you learn how to let go and relax when you do go to bed.
The Right Time
Make a conscious decision to set aside a regular time and place and prepare yourself to ‘work’ at relaxing. It is a commitment. You do not need more than half an hour – even less – to feel the benefits!
How to Relax
A warm room and comfortable clothing will help you relax. Cold makes muscles tense and your aim is to let your body completely release. The body needs to be able to physically and mentally ‘let go’ of any tension.
The ideal position to relax is lying down with the arms away from the body and the palms of the hands facing the ceiling. The legs are parted and the whole body supported by the bed or the floor. If this is uncomfortable for your body, sitting supported in a comfortable chair or in any other position is better than feeling uncomfortable and tense.
Start by asking yourself how you feel. Are you comfortable? If not, keep adjusting the body until you feel supported and able to relax.
Connecting With the Breath
As your body starts to relax start to concentrate on your breathing. You don’t need to do anything other than try and be aware of each inhalation and exhalation.
As the muscles in the body start to release into the support of your bed, chair or floor and your breathing becomes slower and lighter, it is time to concentrate on the mind.
Be aware of all the individual sounds you can hear and the silences between each one. See if you can concentrate more on moments of silence. Keep this awareness of the silence and the stillness of the body. This is hard and the mind often keeps returning to other thoughts or feelings. Don’t worry, but see if you can imagine the mind becoming softer, more spacious and relaxed – just like the body.
This is the hard part. You would think doing nothing and ‘letting go’ would be easy! Try and ‘give yourself permission’ to let go and completely relax. This is similar to falling to sleep and many people do fall asleep when they start learning how to relax. The feeling of complete relaxation differs between individuals and some people experience unexpected emotions and anxiety. This is natural and is likely to be the result of the mind relaxing and releasing suppressed emotions.
A few minutes of relaxation leaves you feeling refreshed and better able to cope. When sleep is evasive, relaxation can be a wonderful way to bring harmony back into an exhausted mind and body.