I'd like to share a little secret about relaxation techniques for athletes (or health-minded people that workout) and anyone that wants to feel more focused, calm, healthy and peaceful.
But first, let's define relaxation techniques, or more specifically, meditation. To begin, it's not necessary to be a Zen master to learn meditation. Anyone can jump-in at any time and start meditating. You should put any expectations aside; do not try to force the outcome; don't try to over-analyze "what meditation is"; and in general, just turn-off the brain and be in the moment. When meditating it is not necessary to blank out your mind or chase thoughts away. You'll learn that as you progress with meditation, your mind will become quieter. Sit comfortably, with your spine reasonably straight. You can rest against a chair, a wall or headboard. Your hands can rest comfortably at your side or on your lap. Your legs can also be in any comfortable position (crossing them or any complicated pretzel position is not necessary). Overall, allow your body to sit comfortably so your body-mind-spirit can be open to relax.
There are different types of meditations that you can use in your daily practice. Here are a few:
* Mindfulness - A process focusing on physical sensations and being present of the moment. It is being attentive to the sensory information entering your mind through your five senses. Beneficial to athletes, people in body pain or someone with a health challenge, dieters and overall for body awareness.
* Visualization - This process creates in the mind specific places or situations, such as a green forest or the calming waves of the ocean. This can be used for goal setting or for quieting the mind.
* Breath mediation - A process focusing on the rhythm of breathing.
* Walking meditation - This Zen Buddhist form of meditation focuses on the sensation of the feet against the ground. Some people have discovered its benefits without realizing it was meditative. Pacing back and forth can be very calming on the mind.
This next meditation I strongly recommend learning first. In fact, I do a "sandwich" - I start with grounding then one of the meditations listed above and end my meditation practice with grounding.
Grounding - This process is being fully present mentally and emotionally and will help you feel more centered and focused. Practicing grounding will put you in control of your environment and focus your energies in your daily routine. Anyone learning meditation for the first time will gain great benefits by practicing grounding on a daily basis.
The Tree Meditation is the simplest exercise to feel more relaxed and energized. Yes, you can actually experience both of these at the same time! Familiarize yourself with this meditation by reading it two or three times and then begin. If you want, you can set a timer for ten minutes.
* Close your eyes and breathe in calmly. Each breath, imagine sipping air with a straw.
* Breathe in --- slow --- and relaxed.
* Imagine a beautiful, majestic tree. As you think of this tree, breathing in more relaxed, imagine YOU are the tree. With each calming breath your spine lengthens. See your body as the trunk of the tree; and as you continue breathing down from your head to your spine, down to your hips ---continue breathing down, feeling more relaxed and calm; down your legs --- your feet ---supporting you like the trunk of the tree.
* As you continue breathing, imagine healthy strong roots extending from the bottom of your feet. Your roots extend deep into Mother Earth, anchoring your body. You're healthy-whole-and complete; fully supported as you breathe deep into the earth. You are a beautiful tree; you feel strong, solid and fully grounded where you are.
* Continue relaxing and breathing. When you are ready, come back to the present --- alert, confident and fully energized.
The last type of meditation is Transcendental. This is a specific type of meditation that must be learned from a certified teacher of the Transcendental Meditation program. Introduced in the late 1950s, this meditation focuses on a mantra (a sound, word or phrase that is repeated over and over, either aloud, as a chant or silently).
Studies of relaxation techniques have shown overall improvements of the body-mind connection for athletes and many health benefits for individuals. Taking the time to meditate and quiet our mind gives us the time to pause in our daily lives. It is the greatest power we hold, to be in the moment, alive and aware of our surroundings and our body. Relaxation gives us time to better organize our day, focus our energy and work more efficiently.
Start your meditation practice in the morning for ten to fifteen minutes. Many of the types of meditations - Grounding, Mindfulness, Visualization, Breath, Walking or Transcendental - can be done at home, work or out-and-about. There are hundreds of meditations to match the needs of the individual or to meet a specific purpose. You can find meditations online, in books, on CD and by taking a class. Over time you will have increased self-esteem and self-confidence; greater creativity; a greater ability to problem solve; and a more calming effect on your surroundings and the people you interact with.
Copyright 2005 Wayne McDonald
Wayne McDonald is the author of "Relax Into Health" - a comprehensive guide to completely relax your body in five minutes. He is the founder of http://www.HolisticWebDirectory.com - an on-line health directory of complementary health care professionals. For more health articles, signup for the monthly Health Newsletter. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org