Exercise: Putting yourself into a deep state of relaxation

Start by putting on some meditation music. If you don’t have any meditation music you can use some calming classical music. Music is not absolutely necessary, but it helps.

Lie down on your back or sit in a comfortable position, on a sofa, bed, or reclining chair. Your head should really be supported so you can let go of all the muscles in your body, including the neck muscles. Put your legs straight out in front of you and your arms by your side. Ensure your entire body is supported.

Make sure you are not too cold and not too hot. You can use a blanket if required, as your body will cool down as you reduce the amount of energy your body will use.

Close your eyes. Become aware of your breath. Don’t change it for the moment; just observe it for a few cycles. Observe the depth of the breaths. Are they deep, or are they shallow? Observe the rate of breathing. Now just count at the rate of approximately 1 count per second (it doesn’t have to be exact – you don’t need a stop watch!) and see for how many seconds you are breathing in and for how many seconds you are breathing out.

Now slowly, one cycle at a time decrease the rate of your breaths and increase the depth of your breaths. I want you to do this until you are comfortable with a count of 6 on the in-breath and a count of 8 on the out-breath. It may take a few cycles to get there. If you can’t get to this 6/8 ratio don’t worry, just decrease your breathing rate and increase the depth of your breathing to as far as you are comfortable with.

When you have reached a regular breathing pattern, with which you are comfortable, focus your attention on your feet. Be aware of any tension in them. On the next outbreath, say “Relax” to yourself and let all the muscles in your feet go. On the next outbreath, focus your attention onto your lower legs, say “Relax” to yourself again and let all the muscles go in your lower legs. Do the same with your upper legs on the next breath, then your pelvic region on the next, your torso on the next, your hands and fingers on the next, your lower arms on the next, your upper arms on the next.

It is your shoulders, neck and face that usually carry the most tension, so really focus on the next few breaths. On the next outbreath relax your shoulders, the next your neck, the next your jaws, the next your eyes and the bridge of your nose, the next your forehead and finally your scalp.

Now continue to say “Relax” to yourself on each outbreath and try to sink further into whatever you are lying on. Imagine you are getting heavier and heavier on each outbreath and the chair or sofa is providing more and more support on each outbreath. Let it support you. You don’t have to do a thing to support your own weight. From time to time focus on your face and neck to make sure these remain fully relaxed.

Now try to slow your breathing down a little more. Now count to every inbreath and outbreath. In: … 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6 … hold for an instant, Out: … 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6 … 7 … 8 … hold for an instant, In: … 1 … 2 … and so on. Try increasing the count for the outbreath to 9. And then to 10. By doing this, you are reducing your blood oxygen levels further, deepening further your state of relaxation. Make sure you don’t go too far too quickly, or you will start feeling short of breath.

You should now be pretty relaxed. You can do this for as long as you wish, trying to get deeper and slower all the time.

If your mind wanders, gently push it back to focussing on counting out the breaths. By counting out the breaths, you are giving something for the mind to focus on; something other than your problems. Meditation music has been composed to aid relaxation, and the slow beat, which may be around 1 per second may coincide with your counts. If it does, synchronize your counts to the gentle beat of the music. Enjoy the music. Imagine it is penetrating deep into the relaxation centre of your brain and opening up little green doors that let out only good feelings. Calm feelings. Feelings of being in control. If any bad feelings should come into your mind, on the next outbreath gently push them into other little red doors and lock the doors once the bad feeling has entered it. Tell them they are no longer required.

Continue for as long as you wish. There is no hurry to come back, but when you want to, come back slowly, bringing your awareness of yourself and your surroundings back into focus on every in breath. Open your eyes and slowly come back.