Optimal Healing Video Blog Relaxation
Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.
– William S. Burroughs
Dr. Joel Kreisberg, bringing you the 12 practices of Optimal Healing. Today we’re going to talk about Relaxation, how do we relax, how do we use relaxation as a healing form, and what you can do when you’re well to increase your ability to heal when you’re not well.
Often overlooked, it seems like it’s not hard how to relax. There’s two kinds of relaxing. For example, one– reading a book or hanging out with my friends. I’m watch TV or go to a sporting game, and that’s very relaxing. But that’s not the kind of relaxing that we’re talking about. We’re trying to develop a relaxation response. That’s the ability to tell our body that it’s okay to shut down all the activity and actually tune inside and just begin to heal. Let’s try it now. Let’s get comfortable. Can you relax for 15 seconds?
Did you notice I changed my posture? I closed my mouth and began to breathe through my nose, and then I paid attention to my exhalations. When I exhale, my energy goes down. When I lengthen my exhalation, I will naturally stimulate a parasympathetic relaxing kind of response. And notice my voice has gotten calmer too. I’m not talking a little slower.
In yoga, there’s a pose called Shavasana or the Corpse Pose that we do at the end of a yoga practice (A great place to practice Yoga in the the East Bay Area is Berkeley Yoga Center). We lie on our backs, arms open and relax. The value of this is that during the practice I use less of my energy. If I allow myself five minutes, ten minutes for my body to settle back down, my body to integrates. And it also teaches me a somatic position that I know you I can go to that will stimulate the relaxation response. So in a busy day, when I transition from work to home and I have to make dinner, if I take five minutes to go do Shavasana on the floor or on a bed, there’s more room for me to get back to action.
In the cycles of the day, take a minute to refocus. Fairly typically 50 minutes is about all we can stay concentrated. Taking a minute every hour and a half to get up, gently walk, go outside, have lunch, then take time for yourself after you eat to relax. This is the way we build a healthy energy cycle where we our energy can flow, naturally creating the space to settle ourselves. If we do this regularly, maybe even take one day off in the weekend, like Shabbat, then we develop the skills for us to use when we’re not feeling well. So if I have a headache or I have a cold or there’s any kind of illness, I take more time to relax. I take five minutes, ten minutes regularly, creating a space for my body to heal and integrate. I can find what I need to stimulate healing.
Relaxing is a form of optimal healing, and I encourage you to take time in your busy day, in your busy life to continue to practice your relaxation response. It doesn’t require a lot, but it requires not doing anything. It requires settling down and allowing your breath just to return to normal. Perhaps when this is done, you’ll just take a few minutes just to pause and relax.