The human body is a marvel. Its ultra-intelligent design allows it to operate in ways without even requiring our attention. The billions and billions of chemical reactions occurring each second are nothing short of symphonic. The habits that become your lifestyle radically influence that symphony, for better or worse. By providing your 70 trillion cells with the support they need to function at their highest levels, you make it possible to prevent or reverse disease, increase energy, and lengthen your time on the planet.
In his book The Healer Within, Roger Jahnke, Doctor of Classical Chinese Medicine, explains, “Dozens of spontaneous self-healing mechanisms . . . are programmed to sustain or restore our health and vitality automatically.” And further, “The foundation of all self-healing, health enhancement, stress mastery, and personal empowerment is deep relaxation.” Below, you will find some of the best techniques I know to help you develop that foundational sweet spot. (Reminder: I’m not a medical professional, and you should consult your Doc or NP prior to trying anything new.)
- Yoga – It took me many years to understand the statements get out of your head and drop into your body, bits of advice often dispensed by my well-meaning yoga teachers. But finally, it hit me: by placing my attention on my breath and body alignment during poses, I put aside the process of jumping from one distracting thought to another for the duration of the class. Dropping into my body calms my mind, and this calm stays with me for hours afterwards. (Plus, all that stretching, twisting and bending keeps me an arm’s length away from aging!) According to an article in Psychology Today, regular yoga results in the central nervous system’s release of GABA, a chemical which works to suppress anxiety for hours after the practice ends. Check out my friend Cindy’s blog Unique Times for some quick, heart-opening hybrid practices. She’s a bright light and a great motivator.
- Massage – According to an article from Mayo Clinic, massage is good for not only stress release, sore muscles, and circulation, but also insomnia, nerve pain, fibromyalgia and digestive disorders. I have been a huge fan of massage as far back as I can remember, primarily because it feels so good to get my stuck energy remobilized! In the past, I’ve gone once a month, but for the past few years, I’ve increased my time on the table to twice per month. My neck and shoulders are much happier! No massage therapist? No problem. Even self-massage can yield benefits.
- Meditation – This practice dates back for thousands of years, and I’m guessing the reason it’s still around is because it is so advantageous. U.C. Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine published an article stating that in addition to meditation boosting emotions, decreasing anxiety, and helping with depression, it also improves heart function, slows age-related cognitive decline, and strengthens the immune system. What’s more, I’ve read from other sources that it increases creativity. Years ago, when living and working at a Buddhist Retreat Center in Northern California, I had a regular meditation practice. Presently, I am renewing that commitment. A huge thank you to my neighbor, Jan, for introducing me to the Headspace Guide to Meditation on Netflix. I find guided meditations easier than going it alone.
- Music – Research shows that Celtic music, jazz, classical, and Native American music are great for reducing stress, says an article on Chopra.com. In addition, playing an instrument or singing causes endorphins (happy chemicals) to be released in the body. The article goes on to say this is especially beneficial for children and cancer patients. Personally, I can’t imagine getting through a single day without listening to music, humming, singing, and a little dancing, can you?
- Nature – I’ll bet you knew this was coming, didn’t you?! As I write this post, I’m sitting outside in the warm Arizona sunshine listening to birdsong and the wind blowing through the trees. According to the article Why Nature Sounds Help You Relax, According to Science on Health.com, sounds such as rustling leaves and a babbling brook can help reduce stressful fight or flight feelings and increase the body’s capacity for relaxation.
As you can see, these techniques not only help you achieve the foundation of relaxation needed by your body for optimal function; they have beneficial side effects as well. Combining one or more of them with other healthy habits can be the key to unlocking your best possible life. What could be better?!
What are your favorite relaxation techniques? If you don’t normally honor your body’s need to relax, would you do me the favor of trying one of these? I’d love to hear your experience.
Blessings for Healthy Foundations,