How To Relax – Deep Breathing, Yoga, and Meditation for Relaxing

How to relax

If you find that you always end up in a rage whenever you’re told to ‘relax’ in the course of an exhausting situation, it is merely a sign that you need to relax. It also means that your body is overdue for an uninterrupted relaxation session.

But no one is judging you. Being able to relax properly is never an easy feat – incredibly when everything around you is demanding; otherwise – it takes time. It is also understandable that the presence of stressors often spells the end of relaxation for most people. It is a lot easier to get overwhelmed by stressors as tight deadlines can very easily crush your desire to relax, and a financial crisis can undoubtedly choke the life out of your relaxation time.

So, just like every other activity with long term effects, relaxation cannot be achieved in a day. It requires constant practice and determination, as it may not be effective when not done correctly.

Thankfully, there is a wide variety of methods to relax and you can choose any to ease off stress and get your body and mind to enjoy the benefits of staying calm. And the fascinating thing is that you can access most of them at the cost of nothing – and even from the comfort of your home.

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it”  – Sydney J Harris

Most times, relaxation is not necessarily achieved by eliminating the factors that are stressing you. The different methods of relaxing help you combat stress by countering your body’s response to these stressors.

Remember our ancestors? And how they were able to stay vigilant to possible threats like hungry wild beasts, as well as other unfriendly cave dwellers? Well, they survived with the help of a physiological phenomenon known as the fight-or-flight-or freeze response. This response is simply the human body’s reaction to stressors.

When you are stressed, your body releases more stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and epinephrine. These hormones trigger the fight-or-flight response, which makes your heart beat faster, your breathing becomes rapid, and your muscles tense up for action.

Now, imagine what happens to your body when pressures at work, finances, and family continually keeps you under the conditions above. You end up exposing yourself to adverse health conditions like insomnia, suppressed immunity, heart diseases, increased blood sugar, and depression. You never thought of any of these, did you?

Scientific studies have it that the body responds to relaxation differently from how it reacts to stress. This means that relaxing will shut off the stress hormone fountain, hit the brakes on your heart rate, and slowly drive your body into a calm state.

You may need to plan and make an extra effort before engaging in relaxation methods like yoga, massage, and nature exploration. On the other hand, you can meditate, listen to some music, and practice deep breathing from wherever you find yourself. However, and as said earlier, relaxing your body and mind is not a one-off activity. It takes time and practice, and you may need to incorporate it into your lifestyle to enjoy its effects.

Also, not every relaxation method will work for you. Do not expect to become a pro at every process on your first attempt. You may need to try a handful of relaxation methods to find the one that best keeps your body calm. When you do this, mastery becomes secondary, as your focus should be on its result on your state, not on getting every move correctly.

“In times of great stress and adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.” – Lee Iacocca

Relaxing Via Meditation

Meditation for relaxation
Young woman meditating for relaxation

Meditation for relaxation is the best alternative to medicine and is proven scientifically to calm your mind and relieve stress. You can do it any time or anywhere. There are different kinds of meditations – each has a different objective. Meditation for relaxation involves deep breathing, focusing your mind and scanning, and being aware of every part of your body.

Meditation takes a bit of practice but we are sure you will be able to see and feel the benefits within 7 to 10 days. And when you continue for a month or more the difference will be more pronounced in terms of stress relief and feeling of positivity.

Try this 5 Minute Meditation with Focused Breathing to Calm your Mind

Below is a Standard Meditation Practice for relaxing the body and calming the mind:

1. Choose a Comfortable Position

Since meditating for relaxation requires that you maintain physical calmness for a given duration, you need to avoid discomfort at all costs. Always keep a comfortable position so that your procedure is not interrupted by an arching arm or discomforting back pain. Also, eliminate possible distractions by choosing a quiet place (if possible).

2. Pay Attention to Your Breathing

As soon as you find a position that resonates with you, start taking deep breaths. Begin with five, inhaling through your mouth and nostrils at the same time. Shut your eyes for better concentration, and imagine yourself letting go of all the stress each time you exhale.

3. Observe

After five deep breaths:

  1. Take a break while maintaining your position.
  2. Get more comfortable, and then observe the environment around you with your senses.
  3. Check for tastes, smells, sounds, or even the feeling of your clothes on your body.

4. Body Check

Next, take some time to check your body. From the roots of your hair to the tips of your toes, try to pay attention to any anomaly or discomfort. Stay on each part of your body for at least 20 seconds before moving to the next. Also, take cognizance of your mood and the different thoughts you have during this process.

5. Breathe Again

Now that you are aware of the different conditions of your body parts begin the deep breathing afresh. This time, observe your body as it responds to your breathing – pay attention to your heaving chest, as well as the contraction and expansion of your stomach as you inhale and exhale.

To focus on your breaths:

  1. Please pay attention to how deep each one is, as well as its rate. You can also count each inhalation and exhalation so that you do not lose track of the number.
  2. Stop the counting at 20 before starting all over again, or continue counting until the session is over.
  3. Try not to fret if you find it challenging to keep your mind blank and calm.

After several practices, that should no longer be difficult to achieve.

6. Stay Calm

After completing the breathing process, sit still for about a minute. This is to allow your body and mind in relaxing – whether you’re thinking or not.

7. Evaluate Your Current State

As you gradually bring the process to an end, take some time to understand your body and mind’s current state. You can now begin to take cognizance of your environment and bodily contacts.

This might seem like the easiest part of the process as it is the end, but this is the part where you pay the most attention. You need to understand what your body is experiencing at this point and stay in touch with that reality. You should also know what it feels like in your mind after a detoxifying meditation session. This way, you can carry this aura into the rest of the day or at times when you are under stress.

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” – Etty Hillesum

Muscle Relaxation
Young man stretching on the balcony for relaxation

Muscle Relaxation

Nothing relaxes the body better than a simple stretch on a super comfy lounge chair under the sweet summer sun. The thought of this summer goodness alone can get your body completely relaxed.

Since tension in the muscles is evidence of stress, muscle relaxation frees up your muscles to help you transition to a state of rest.

In essence, exercises that help your muscles loosen up can help combat the adverse effect of stress. These exercises are referred to as progressive or deep muscle relaxation. They counter your body’s response to stress and anxiety and can be done from anywhere.

To carry out an in-depth muscle relaxation process, ensure that you can access a spot where you won’t be disturbed. Your preferred place should also be spacious enough to allow you to stretch out yourself, with your back on the floor.

This exercise has to do with increasing tension in a given set of muscles as you inhale and releasing the pressure as you exhale. So, you’ll need to take the forces one set at a time – in your preferred order.

  • As soon as you’re comfortably positioned, close your eyes, inhale deeply and tense the first set of muscles for about 7 to 9 seconds. Be careful not to overdo the tightening; you don’t want to start hurting the body you are trying to relax.
  • Rapidly relax the muscles as you exhale after the stipulated time.
  • Take a break for a few seconds before working on the next set of muscles. At this point, you should begin to feel the impact of the exercise on your muscles and the state of your body.
  • When you have checked off all the muscles you want to relax progressively, do some conscious counting or recitation to bring you back to reality.

The good thing about this exercise is that you can relax specific muscles in your body whenever you feel the need. And constant practice will help you get used to the process for optimal results.

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”– Alan Cohen

Deep Breathing For Relaxation

When you are stressed, your body produces stress hormones that, in addition to other things, cause a spike in your breathing rate. This increased rate does not necessarily mean that you are taking enough breath at that point. It merely means that you’re taking more rapid but shallow breaths which cannot supply your cells with sufficient oxygen.

To relax, you’ll need to take deep breaths, which will spur your parasympathetic nervous system into action, and also reverse your body’s response to stress.

To relax by breathing deeply,

  • Take a comfortable position on the floor or the bed. You can either lie down or sit upright with your feet touching the ground.
  • With one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, adjust yourself until you are in a comfortable position.
  • Now take a deep breath through your nostrils until the expansion of your stomach become noticeable. 
  • Slowly count to 3 without releasing your breath. Then breathe out slowly and observe as your stomach collapses.

Pranayam – a Yogic Breathing Technique 

 
Pranayam is a yogic breathing technic to enhance the functioning of the body and promote your mental and emotional health.  Pranayam is derived from the word ‘Prana’ which means ‘life’ and the concept is based on breathing, which is considered the most important factor in regulating our heart and increasing the span of life.

The breathing techniques in Pranayam are easy and can be done anywhere. The main belief is that breathing enhances the quality of life (prana) and proper breathing cures the body from within and helps us with clear thinking and positive motivation, The right posture is important which engaging in these breathing techniques.

The following techniques are popular and practiced widely – but please consult someone certified to guide you in the right direction.

1. Ujjayi

Here you take long breaths for maximum oxygen input which helps in stress relief, lung, and respiratory diseases, digestion, etc.

2. Surya Bhedi 

Right nostril breathing technique

3. Chandra Bhedi 

Left nostril breathing technique

4. Kapalbhati

In this technique, you take a long breath first and then release it by exhaling in short intermittent bursts. This is a popular technique (especially during the pandemic) and widely practiced as it has proven beneficial for the respiratory system and also believed to strengthen our lungs.

There are few other techniques like breathing retention (not for those suffering from hypertension) and should be always done under expert guidance.

5. Anulom Vilom 

Alternate nostril breathing

” Set peace of mind as your highest goal, and organize your life around it.” – Brian Tracy

Relaxing the Body and Mind with Yoga

Modern science may just be discovering the influence of coordinated breathing and motion in calming the mind. But the people who introduced yoga to the world millennia ago knew this truth very well – the body and mind can be controlled with the right combination of rhythmic movements and breathing.

Given the current rate at which yoga studios and tutors are emerging in the country, you can’t help but want to lay your hands on a few yoga classes. After each class or session, you’ll understand how important this ancient exercise can be in improving your stamina, balance, and flexibility.

There are many different types of Yogas. Hatha Yoga which is a combination of many different styles focuses on Pranayama ( as discussed above) – a breathing technique and is a great way for strengthening the mind for inner awareness and physical wellness.

While most of the yoga postures are focussed on increasing flexibility, cardiovascular benefits, addressing other health-related issues, quite a few are focussed on the relaxation of the body and the mind. Nearly all Yoga postures end in Savasana – a resting posture.

Yoga Postures for Relaxation

Below we have listed five Yoga postures beneficial for relaxation. Once again Yoga should be always done with expert guidance.

Bhujangasana - Snake or Sphinx pose

Bhujangasana - Snake or Sphinx pose

Bhujangasana is normally done in the morning on empty stomach. It helps to relax the shoulders and the back while stretching hip muscles. You can do this for 3to 5 minted at a stretch to treat hypertension and relieving fatigue.

Sarvangasana - Bridge Pose

Sarvangasana - Bridge Pose

Sarvangasana is also done on empty stomach, with 1to 2 minutes at a stretch. It helps in strengthening the back and stretched the frontal part of your body. If you need support you can use a yoga block below your hips.

Viparita Karani - legs up the wall pose

Viparita Karani - legs up the wall pose

Viparita Karani is easy with wall support but should be done on empty stomach. You can do it for 5 to 8 minutes to get relief from depression. This particular Yogasana has many benefits. Apart from regulating blood flow it also relieves swollen ankles and leg pain occurring due to fatigue.

Supta Matsyendrasana - Recling Fish Pose

Supta Matsyendrasana - Reclining Fish Pose

Supta Matsyendrasana is lying down flat on your back and twisting one leg over the other while keeping your arms stretched. This again should be done on an empty stomach and clean bowels. This asana helps in receiving total stiffness of the body while encouraging the fresh flow of blood to your digestive system thereby helping to remove toxins.

Savasana - Corpse Pose

Savasana - Corpse Pose

Savasana can be described as classical relaxation. While lying still for 5 to 10 minutes you relax every part of your body, inch by inch. This asana can be done anytime during the day. You should not fall asleep and remain lightly conscious of your surroundings. Savasana helps in blood circulation and puts you in a deep meditative state.

Important:

If you are suffering from hypertension, kidney diseases, back pain or injury, or have a degenerative disk disease, recent ailment then please talk to a Yoga instructor Also, while doing any of these if you feel uncomfortable or in pain, come out of the posture slowly, breathe deeply and take some rest.

Tai Chi for Relaxation

Tai Chi Poses for Relaxation

The Chinese initially used this ancient exercise as a combative self-defense act. However, it is appreciated today for its health and fitness benefits and can be done by both the young and the old.

Tai chi can also be done in different ways, but each approach focuses on similar activities, which include the following:

  • Deep breaths.
  • Articulated body postures
  • Focus
  • Slow but unperturbed movements

While you can achieve all of the above activities on your own, tai chi will help you relieve stress and relax better if you know the movements correctly. And a tai chi class is usually an excellent place to start. You can also utilize the numerous books and videos available online and offline – to help you master your tai chi moves.and relax 

Tai Chi for Relaxation
Asian couple practicing tai chi outside by the river

Qigong for Relaxation

Qigong (pronounced Chee Gong) is a Chinese word for ‘breath’ and ‘exercise’ and is another health improvement exercise that involves meditation and movement. As such Qigong can be described as a mind-body-spirit experience. Qigong has its roots in the ancient healing culture of the Chinese people and is still used by many to relax whenever they feel stressed.

Nevertheless, like most other meditative traditional practices, qigong has been incorporated into modern-day medicine. It is also used as a clinical therapy for mental and physical illnesses like pain, stress, and high blood pressures. 

The beauty of this ancient practice is that it can be done by anybody, from anywhere, and at any time. Yes. You can try a 3-minute long session of this meditative therapy – irrespective of your location.

  • Begin by taking a seated position and giving yourself just enough space for unrestricted movement.
  • Next, bring your mind to a relaxed state by maintaining an internal focus. Try not to think of anything at this point – except what you’re trying to achieve.
  • Close your eyes, and place your two hands together as though you are praying. Don’t forget to rid your mind of past and future thoughts.
  • Next, spread both hands, with each palm backing your face.
  • Slowly release your right hand from the left one, and make a circular motion with it (your right palm facing the left) until it approaches the left, which remains still.
  • As soon as your hands are close enough, make a circular movement towards the right with your left hand while you watch your right palm as it follows the direction of the left hand.
  • Continue the movement, and switch hands alternatively. But before every switch, try to focus on something in the distance before turning your attention to your hand.

There are several other qigong exercises you can do to relax and rid your body of stress and anxiety. Ensure that you’re comfortable with whatever style you choose.

Relaxing with Soothing Sounds and Music

A specially composed music for Relaxation and Stress Relief

Music is one of the greatest aid for creating a relaxing ambiance and calming the mind. Science says that music at 60 BPM (beats per minute) which is essentially slow music can help you synchronize with alpha brainwaves (8 – 14 Hz frequencies) which occur in our brain when we are in a relaxed state.

Music has almost the same effect on our mind as meditation and listening to soothing music like those from Indian flute, string instruments and slow drums is a proven tool for relaxing the mind and putting it in a state of calmness. Apart from this instrumental music, Native American, Celtic, Light Jazz are also known to be helpful for relaxing.

It’s not always possible to check the BPM of music. Music can be irritating and exciting. Ideally, anything which is slow, anything you like, and makes you feel relaxed should work.

Music can be used to even induce sleep if one listens for a longer span, around 45 minutes to an hour. Delta waves (frequencies at 5Hz) occur in our brain when relaxed for such a period.

Another form of beats that can help us relax is an auditory illusion created with Binaural beats which are two tones at slightly different frequencies. This is quite popular in practicing meditation as it is claimed to create the same brainwave pattern which we experience during meditating. Binaural beats are also claimed to induce a state of calmness, enhance relaxation, and reduce our stress levels.

“Just being surrounded by bountiful nature, rejuvenates and inspires us.” – EO Wilson

Enjoy a Good Dose of Nature

Spending time in nature and with pets is a great way to relax
Spending time in nature and with pets is a great way to relax

Nature is hardcoded in our system. Nature can provide immense therapeutic benefits. Research in a growing scientific field called ecotherapy has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. According to Dr. Strauss from Harvard- affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance says. “Having something pleasant to focus on like trees and greenery helps distract your mind from negative thinking, so your thoughts become less filled with worry.”

You may not have heard this before, but recent study has it that nature leaves a relaxing impact on the human mind. A natural environment such as the beach, the woods, or a park has a way of restoring balance in your mind and countering the adverse effects of stress in your body.

A simple stroll in the park or sitting below a tree can rejuvenate you. While the natural sound of winds brushing the leaves, bird songs helps in relaxing, the outdoors, the sun, the open space has a positive effect on our mind. 

A natural setting is always helpful in relaxing. Imagine sitting by a brook, or on the beach listening to sea waves, or walking down a forest path – these nature sounds help much to tune in to our senses,  look outside our daily chores and thus lowering our fast pace. Research conducted with college students found that spending 10 minutes in a natural setting can help feel happier and is one of the easiest and effective ways to relieve stress.

Spending time with nature is never futile as it always leaves us with a purpose. A little outdoors in our life helps us to get away from the everyday ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response as our brain starts focussing more on the outside world. 

Soothe the Stress Out

Relaxing activities like massages have a way of influencing the state of your body and mind. They control the production and secretion of neurohormones like dopamine in the body. These hormones are responsible for human behavior and wellbeing and can also be linked to happiness and ecstasy.

Physiologically a massage can help reduce physical stress by improving our blood circulation while releasing endorphins, which in turn are responsible for happiness and well-being. Most of us are aware that a massage acts on our musculoskeletal system but none can’t deny the fact and we always come out happier after a massage session.

Relaxation massage can be of different types. A few popular ones are:

  • Swedish Massage
  • Deep Tissue Massage
  • Reflexology Massage
  • Therapeutic Massage

A good massage helps in reducing the tightness we feel in our body which normally results from both poor posture and emotional stress. Apart from physical, stress is also an emotional response that affects our daily life and activities. A relaxation massage helps in feeling calm, content, and happy.

 

“Doing something that is productive is a great way to alleviate emotional stress. Get your mind doing something that is productive” – Ziggy Marley

Engage in Creative Hobbies to Relax

Engaging in activities you love can be a good start to managing stress and relax naturally. See a movie, hang out with your loved ones, or make that recipe you’ve always wanted to try. For those who are inclined, try painting a picture, penning a diary, or even engage in gardening – things which you long to do and love to do. As long they make you smile, bring happiness your mind will be off the problems which bother you. 

For one thing, you should be able to take your mind off your stressors to enjoy those pleasurable moments. Secondly, doing your favorite activities makes you feel a lot better about life in general. This can boost your mood and encourage you to relax better and manage stress.

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