One proven method of achieving complete relaxation is deep breathing. This is an ancient method favoured by yoga masters and is a useful and enjoyable way to begin self-hypnosis.
Our normal everyday breathing is typically rather shallow and rapid, and usually involves expanding and contracting the chest. However, deep, diaphragmatic breathing is healthier and comes from the abdomen. In diaphragmatic breathing you allow your belly to expand outwards as you inhale, pulling the diaphragmatic membrane beneath your lungs downwards and allowing your lungs to draw in air to fill the space. Inhale slowly through the nose and exhale slowly through the mouth.
This kind of slow, deep, rhythmic breathing triggers a 'relaxation response' in the body, the opposite of the adrenaline-fuelled ‘fight or flight' response. Some of the beneficial changes that occur as part of this type of relaxation are reduced heart rate, increased blood flow to the extremities, and muscular relaxation.
Begin by taking a deep diaphragmatic breath, inhaling through your nose, for a count of three. Now, having filled your lungs, hold your breath for a count of three. Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of six. Wait for a count of four and repeat the breathing cycle again.
Always keep your breathing comfortable and relaxing. Don't inhale so deeply that your lungs hurt or burn. If you feel dizzy or light-headed at any time stop for a while and then continue.
This exercise in breathing can be done anywhere and any time, and can be used to help counter tension or pressure. Take five of these slow, deep, relaxing breaths as preparation for self hypnosis.
Progressive relaxation is a system of relaxation developed by Edmund Jacobson and means focusing separately, and progressively, on each of the muscle groups in your body in turn, and allowing any tension held in those muscles to be released. Jacobson designed this technique based on the argument that "an anxious mind cannot exist within a relaxed body". Particular attention should be given to the neck, shoulders and facial muscles as these areas can hold a great deal of tension.
Active progressive relaxation involves tensing each muscle group as you inhale, holding the tension for a few seconds, and then gradually releasing the tension completely as you slowly fully exhale. This can be done for each muscle group in turn until the whole body is relaxed. The main muscle groups which can be relaxed in this way are; legs and feet, arms and hands, back shoulders and neck, stomach and chest, buttocks, face and head.
Passive progressive relaxation is similar to the above, except that it does not require you to actively tense your muscles at all. Instead you simply imagine the tension flowing out of your body with each breathe you exhale, working progressively around your body as before. It can help to visualise the tension as a kind of liquid which drains away out of your body as you breathe. This is a comfortable and easy method of relaxation which can be done almost anywhere.
Once you are fully relaxed, remember how it feels, and create an image in your mind that describes your relaxed state. This will help you to return to this state of relaxation again more easily in future. Deep relaxation is an excellent way to prepare for self-hypnosis.
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