Meditation techniques for deep rest and stress reduction
Detailed instructions for 4 distinct approaches to help beginners and regular practitioners alike.
This article was originally published September 15, 2017.
With the fast pace of our busy lives, it can be hard to take time to de-stress and feel fully rested. We find ourselves constantly thinking about worries of the future, memories of the past and present daily tasks. Our lives become an endless to-do list, causing us to feel stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
Luckily, relaxation, anxiety reduction and rejuvenation can be fostered and sustained, by adding simple meditation techniques to our daily regime.
During the initial stages of learning meditation, we can practice tools that help us to concentrate, by focusing our minds on a single experience or activity. The result of prolonged attention is deep relaxation, clarity and resilience. Our racing thoughts begin to slow down, and the parasympathetic nervous system signals the body to rest.
Deep rest allows the body to repair, quiets the mind and relieves stress. Here are some easy meditation techniques that encourage deep rest and promote stress reduction.
For each exercise, sit in a comfortable position, either on a chair, or cross-legged on the floor. (If you are on the floor, you may want to sit on a meditation cushion.) The spine should be straight and the body should be relaxed, with eyes closed.
The Mouth Breather
Exhalation through the mouth induces deep relaxation, relieves emotional stress and decreases tension in the head, neck and chest.
Slowly inhale a long, deep breath through the nose. Feel your stomach rise as you inhale, filling the abdomen, the middle chest and upper chest with air.
Gently exhale through the mouth, as though you are softly sighing, feeling the upper chest drop down, the middle chest contract and the ribcage move down, toward the abdomen. The navel should naturally be drawn back toward the spine.
Repeat this practice 10 times.
Introduced by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, Retrospection is a process that helps us to review our daily lives, improve our memory and recollect fragmented thoughts and experiences that can create subconscious stress. This exercise should be practiced at the end of the day, before sleep.
Gently breathe in and out, focusing on the sensation of the breath. Slowly repeat 5 times.
Begin to recall the experiences of your day, starting from the evening and ending with the morning. Try not to linger on any event or change it, simply look at the events as though you are watching a film from an objective viewpoint.
When you are finished, remain seated with your eyes closed and continue to breathe slowly for 5 complete breaths.
The Autogenic Trainer
Developed by the German psychiatrist, Johannes Heinrich Schultz, Autogenic Training fosters communication between the body and mind, and has been used to manage pain, alleviate stress, improve sleep and reduce fatigue.
Take seven, slow, deep breaths. Silently and slowly, repeat this script to yourself:
My mind is calm
My mind is calm, my right arm is relaxed
My mind is calm, my left arm is relaxed
My mind is calm, my right leg is relaxed
My mind is calm, my left leg is relaxed
My mind is calm, my abdomen is relaxed and warm
My mind is calm, my breathing is regular and smooth
My mind is calm, my body is relaxed and warm
My mind is calm
Progressive muscle relaxation is a series of successive tension and relaxation exercises. Each muscle group is tightly contracted for five seconds, then released for 10 seconds. The result is increased circulation and a relaxation response. Progressive relaxation is not recommended for those who have high blood pressure, low blood pressure or heart conditions.
Raise your eyebrows up as far as you can, and feel the stretch of your forehead
Tightly shut the eyelids
Stretch the jaw down and open the mouth as wide as possible
Raise your shoulders up to the ears and then squeeze them backwards
Inhale and tighten the chest
Exhale and pull the navel to the spine, sucking the stomach in and up
Clench your fists and tighten your arms
Pull the buttocks together and tighten
Squeeze the thighs, pull the lower leg muscles toward you and tightly curl the toes down
Nicole Mahabir is the Founder and Director of JAI Wellness, a platform for health education, mindful living and wellbeing. For the past 10 years, Nicole has lead professional certified programs, teaching Nutrition, Meditation, Ayurveda, Yoga Therapy and Natural Anti-Ageing Beauty Regimes. When she isn't teaching, Nicole creates integrated, sustainable health protocols for her busy clients. Follow Nicole on Instagram @jaiwellness or on her website, jaiwellness.com.