The majority of us have no idea how much tension we continuously hold within our muscles. In today’s society we have unknowingly trained our muscles to stay in a perpetual state of contraction and because of this, even in sleep, they don’t fully relax.
Our muscles are constantly stimulated either through the stresses of modern life or through vigorous sports and exercise. Even TV programmes, that we may watch of an evening to relax, have an effect of firing up the mind which can in turn stimulate the muscles, further tensing them. Also, painful emotions can be stored within the muscles, leading to greater muscle fatigue.
Even now, whilst reading this, you will probably be holding tension somewhere in your body. If you take your awareness to your face you may notice that your forehead, jaw or eyes are not relaxed. But until this was pointed out to you, you were unaware of it. If you travel further into the body you may find your shoulders are hunched or your wrists may be extended back, all creating pressure in the muscles and joints. We could go through the entire body, but I think it’s safe to say that you will be, unwittingly, holding tension somewhere.
When our muscles are constantly contracted and alert they are fuelling the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and not only is this depleting the body of vital energy, that those of us who have low energy cannot afford to lose, but it is also prematurely ageing, can raise blood pressure and lower our immune system.
In training the muscles to soften and loosen-up through relaxation, it will switch on the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn will slow our breathing, lower the blood pressure, initiate deep relaxation of body and mind, and allows healing to occur.
In yoga, it is known that the relaxation, at the end of a class, is the most beneficial part of the practice. Not only is it time for the body to rest but it’s the time that the benefits of practise are fully integrated.
To fully relax the body we need to be in a supine position, lying on the floor or on a bed, with our whole body weight being supported (for anyone suffering back problems: a bolster or cushion under knees is helpful). The best way to get a muscle to relax is to tense it first, for five to ten seconds. Start at the feet and work up through limbs, torso and face, tensing and relaxing each body part in turn (great one to do if you can’t sleep) and then stay for a while in this deep state of stillness. If time is short, you could do the lower part of body first, then upper half, finishing on the face. Not only does this exercise promote relaxation but it will also aid in stilling the mind.
You may not always feel the benefits of relaxation directly after (hence us not always realising what a benefit it is). In some, the valuable results may not be felt till the day after.
Relaxation can be done anytime, but the best time is after exercise when the muscles have been stretched and strengthened and the mind is quieter.
If you are Highly Sensitive (Empath) or suffer from any kind of chronic fatigue doing full-body muscle resting will be of great help to your overall well-being.
Quick Recap of Relaxation Benefits
- Reduces fatigue
- Lowers blood pressure
- Boosts immune system
- Induces restful sleep
- Allows for muscle regeneration
- Switches on parasympathetic nervous system
- Promotes mind stillness
- Aides in general well-being.
©Diane Kathrine at Empaths Empowered