What does this word mean to you?
Absence of stress? Less distraction and more satisfaction?
No matter how you define it, most of us would love to increase our relaxation quotient. Stress is the enemy of modern society, but fortunately, there are many things we can do to help ourselves thrive despite daily adversity.
Here are some tips on how to relax just about anywhere, any time – all by yourself.
Although the term yoga conjures up pretzely postures in many people’s minds, it actually translates from the ancient Sanskrit to mean: “to add”, “to join”, “to unite”, or “to attach.”
Any kind of stretching can be considered yoga, but if the term bothers you, don’t bother with it. Just stretch. Always begin slowly and let your muscles relax at their own pace. Some days you will be able to stretch further than others. That’s okay. Keep breathing.
Here are a few favorite stretching exercises that require no extra room, and feel sooooo good:
– Neck rolls. Stand or sit comfortably with a straight spine. Gently lower your chin to your chest. Inhale slowly as you roll your head in one direction upwards, and exhale when your head is back and returning to the downward starting position. Proceed with caution, and if anything hurts, stop immediately. Otherwise, continue rolling your head as you breathe in and out. Do the same number of neck rolls in the opposite direction.
– Shoulder rolls. Stand or sit comfortably with a straight spine. Without moving your neck, roll both shoulders down and forward, then up and back, completing a circle. After a few of these, reverse the direction for the same number of backward shoulder rolls.
– Neck turns. Stand or sit comfortably with a straight spine. First, with chin level to the ground, turn your head to the left as you inhale; exhale as you turn your head to the right. Repeat this movement a few times. Then, lift your chin with head back, as if looking at the ceiling, and inhale; exhale as you drop your chin to your chest. Repeat a few times. Finally, be very careful not to strain when you tilt your head sideways, alternating left and right for a few times. Gradually, your muscles will tone and all these stretches will become easier, with increased ranges of motion.
SELF-MASSAGE AND ACUPRESSURE
Who doesn’t like a nice, soothing massage? Have you ever had acupressure, foot reflexology, or acupuncture session? Talk about relaxing!
The problem is, many of us spend a lot of time alone, or have a partner who isn’t the world’s greatest masseur, or may not have the financial means to enjoy professional healing touch therapies.
Not to worry: you can give yourself some incredibly effective relief by stimulating your body’s natural energy channels, called meridians.
To guide you, Michael Reed Gach, Ph.D., Acupressure Therapy Expert & Author has prepared an excellent, upbeat “how-to” video on giving yourself relieving acupressure shoulder and neck treatments.
“Laughter is the best medicine.” Studies show that people who laugh gain myriad health benefits:
“Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress.”
Other experts agree, like Dr. Gulshan Sethi, head of cardiothoracic surgery at the Tucson Medical Center and faculty at the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine:
“Laughter activates the body’s natural relaxation response. It’s like internal jogging, providing a good massage to all internal organs while also toning abdominal muscles.”
If you aren’t used to smiling or laughing much, carry a pencil and a small mirror around. Biting on the pencil (when no one is looking) will force you to smile. Get used to how that feels. Look in your mirror from time to time, or place it strategically to catch glimpses of yourself. Are you smiling or laughing? Unless it isn’t appropriate (during a serious business meeting or at a funeral, for example) – why aren’t you? Go ahead: lighten up!
As a sign I saw in Hawaii said, “Smile – it no broke your face.” (“It won’t break your face.”)
MUSIC & DANCE
“Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast, To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak,” so said William Congreve, in “The Mourning Bride” (1697).
There is something about music that can change your mood in an instant, for better or for worse. Go for better, and surround yourself with pleasant tunes as much as possible.
Likewise with dancing, you don’t need to be a Ginger Rogers or Mr. Bojangles to cut a rug on a daily basis. Heck, you don’t even need to cut a rug. Just sway your hips from side to side or take some sideways steps. No need to be fancy, but get that body moving to a rhythmic beat. The only rule is: if it feels good, do it.
If you sit in a chair all day give yourself a break once in awhile – for your health and well-being -and move around. Go ahead:
“Get up and dance!”