From the moment we rise in the morning to the time our head touches the pillow at night, most of us are on the go.
There is breakfast to make, kids to wake, lunches to pack, dogs to feed, work to do, errands to run, gym workouts to crush, dinner to cook, dishes to wash, and did I forget to mention the laundry???
Unfortunately, when we are finally able to find that one moment in the day (or week) to relax and recharge, it is almost impossible to turn off our busy minds.
Now, more than ever, people need a practice that they can turn to relax.
At the Paseo Club, we know that fitness is only one key ingredient to feeling great. Quality sleep, nutrition, friends, time in nature, and a relaxation practice all contribute significantly to good mental health.
Many people know that they are “supposed to” relax. But it can be hard to know how to relax.
In this article, we will outline the best 8 relaxation techniques with the hope that at least one of the options (or many) will be a good fit for you.
We selected these methods based on them being effective, scientifically researched, easy to implement, and free or low cost.
The best 8 relaxation exercises
The primary focus of relaxation is to quiet our thoughts and bring a sense of peace to our bodies and our minds.
Guided meditation is also called guided imagery or visualization. This method of meditation encourages you to form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. It can be led by a teacher in a class or you can use an app when you are at home.
Mindfulness meditation is simply the practice of being “mindful” — having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment by using the flow of your breath. Meditators observe their thoughts and emotions but let them pass without judgment.
Walking meditation is “meditation in motion.” The well-known Vietnamese meditation master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh describes walking meditation as “printing peace, serenity, and happiness on the ground.” You can walk in nature, at a labyrinth, or even to your mailbox and back. Try to go slow, breathe while you walk, and notice the sensations in your feet, legs, and body. Observe your thoughts and do your best to let them go.
Prayer or chanting is a meditation that uses mantras or calming words, thoughts, or phrases. You say them silently to yourself to prevent distracting thoughts. Some popular modern mantras are:
Meditating is something that can be done anywhere and at any point in the day — at work, at home, or while in nature. You can meditate for just a few minutes or longer if you prefer. If you are wondering if you are meditating successfully, have no fear. The only criterion is that you enjoy the moments during meditation.
Yoga is an ancient discipline that originates from India. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” meaning “to join” or “to unite.”To practice yoga you join a series of postures with controlled breathing exercises. Yoga is done to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you're encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the moment.
There are several branches of yoga, some focused more on relaxation while others emphasize strength, mobility, and balance.
Hatha yoga is a great form of yoga for beginners. It is usually slower-paced and involves a set of physical postures (yoga poses) and breathing techniques. These are typically practiced more slowly and with more static posture holds.
Iyengar yoga was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar. It is known for its focus on precision and timing and the use of props, which were designed by Mr. Iyengar, to help the practitioner achieve any asana (pose).
Vinyasa yoga is a type of yoga that strings movements together, one posture flowing smoothly into another. It is different from other forms of yoga that emphasize holding static postures. It is often referred to as “flow” yoga.
Kundalini yoga is unlike any other type of yoga. Whereas Hatha, Iyengar, and vinyasa yoga focuses on physical exercises, Kundalini focuses on the spiritual practice of yoga. The goal of Kundalini is to help you connect with your consciousness through meditation, mantras, breathing exercises, and certain postures.
Bikram (or hot) yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s. It involves doing a series of poses in hot, sauna-like conditions. The rooms are generally set to 105 degrees with 40% humidity. The purpose of Bikram yoga is to build strength and tone muscles. The high heat opens pores and allows toxins to flow out of your system.
3. Tai Chi/Qigong
Tai Chi and Qigong are ancient Chinese practices that use gentle exercises that are characterized by coordinated body posture, deep rhythmic breathing, meditation, and mental focus. In contrast to the more vigorous forms of yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong emphasize graceful, slow movements.
These practices may be viewed as meditative movements and share many of the healing elements observed in mindfulness meditation.
Forest bathing may sound like a newfangled idea but it actually was developed in Japan in 1982. In fact, shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) was so successful for its citizens, that Japan made it part of its national health program.
There is nothing complicated to do or learn to forest bathe. Forest bathing is the practice of absorbing the forest atmosphere. It is simply spending time in nature, immersing your senses in your surroundings, and attempting to enjoy the present moment.
If you do not live near a forest that is ok. Select from the natural areas available to you: meadows, beaches, gardens, deserts, or even city parks.
Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses essential oils distilled from plants to promote health and well-being.
Aromatherapy has been in existence for thousands of years and has historically been used in China, India, Persia (Iran), and Egypt. Essential oils were used for both physical and psychological applications.
Aromatherapy is thought to work by stimulating smell receptors in the nose, which then send messages through the nervous system to the section of the brain that controls emotions.
It is understood that the use of essential oils in diffusers, sitz baths, creams, and other applications may provide:
Relief from anxiety and depression
Improved quality of life, particularly for people with chronic health conditions
Essential oils that are commonly used to aid in relaxation are:
Many of us find that putting on our favorite tunes on the drive home from work or when picking up the kids from school is a great way to relax and feel upbeat.
Depending on the type of music you choose, you can affect your brain waves, allowing you to feel optimistic and lively or relaxed and calm.
Research shows that music that plays at 60 beats per minute can cause the brain to synchronize with the rhythm that causes alpha brainwaves. These brainwaves are what are present when we are relaxed and conscious.
So the next time you are looking to wind down from a busy day, turn to your collection of Native American, Celtic, Indian stringed instruments, light jazz, classical, or easy listening music. You can also put on music that features drums and flutes or recordings of rain, thunder, or other nature sounds.
Though our children may turn to making art projects far more than we do, drawing and painting can help adults too. There is a whole body of therapy called Art Therapy that has been created to assist in the healing of personal trauma and to relieve stress.
Making art often functions similarly to meditation. It allows participants to be in the moment, focused on their experience, which allows for stressors and worries to dissipate.