Donna Phillips, MSW RSW
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Introduction to Mind-Body Relaxation

Option 1

Stress and tension are the biggest preventable causes of unhappiness and illness. They poison your relationships, self-esteem, health, and happiness. They are also obstacles to change because when you're tense, you tend to repeat what is familiar and wrong, instead of what's new and right.  Mind-body relaxation is not just a way to relax, it is a way to improve your life. You relax by letting go of negative traits that make you tense. Relaxation is all about letting go. You let go of tension, the past, and negative thinking that contribute to your unhappiness. Letting go is what elevates mind-body relaxation from a technique to a coping skill.Relax your body and your mind will follow. The key to relaxation is – do not try to relax your mind. Your body and mind relax as a unit. Since it’s hard to relax your mind, the approach of mind-body relaxation is to relax your body first. If you relax your body, your mind will follow because they are in constant communication. Try this simple one-minute exercise.
  • Sit in a chair with both feet resting comfortably on the ground. Imagine your legs and feet becoming heavy. Mentally scan the soles of your feet, and feel each point where your soles touch the ground.
  • It's important that you feel your skin touching the ground. Don't try to visualize it – feel it. Do this for a few breaths before moving on.
  • Next, imagine your whole body becoming heavy and loose. Mentally scan the points where your skin touches the chair. Feel your seat and hips touching the ground. Do this for a few more breaths before reading further.
If you did this simple exercise, you’re already breathing more slowly and feeling more relaxed. What’s amazing is how quickly you can relax once you know how. This exercise has shown you how to become grounded and centered. You become grounded by scanning your body, and feeling your skin on the ground. You become centered by turning your focus into your body and away from your tension.A typical relaxation session is 20 to 40 minutes. Start with 10 minutes a day, and try adding 10 minutes a week. You can divide sessions into two. If 20 to 40 minutes sounds like a long time, consider how much time you waste feeling anxious or angry on a daily basis.
There are three basic relaxation postures. You can relax lying down, sitting on the floor, or sitting in a chair. The same technique works with each posture.If you reduce your stress, you will feel happier, and that feeling will spill over into the rest of your life. 
There are no restrictions on the printing of this document. It is provided as a public service by For a more complete guide to mind-body relaxation refer to the book "I Want to Change My Life" by Dr. Steven M. Melemis.

Option 2

 From "Getting Unstuck" by James S. Gordon, MD
I might go through this very simple technique that I teach people right from the beginning, this soft belly breathing technique.  I think it’s a way of beginning that process of reconnection because often before you can reconnect with your life’s purpose, you need to reconnect with your body and with your mind, with your basic moment-to-moment being.  So, what you need to do is simply sit comfortably in a chair and allow your breath to deepen, close your eyes if that feels comfortable to you and begin breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. 
This may be unfamiliar at first, but it’s a very relaxing kind of breath, and you’ll get used to it after a while.  Allow your belly to be soft.  If the belly is soft, more oxygen goes to the bottom of the lungs, and there’s better oxygen exchange, and oxygen is fuel for our brains.  If the belly is soft, it activates the Vagus nerve which comes up from the abdomen, through the chest, back to the brain, and the Vagus nerve is the principle nerve of relaxation.  It balances our agitation, our fight or flight response.  If the belly is soft, then all the other muscles in the body begin to relax as well.  To encourage this process you can say to yourself “soft” as you breathe in and “belly” as you breathe out.  If thoughts come, let them come, and let them go.  Gently bring your mind back to soft – belly. 

A lot of the studies that have been done on meditation and technically, this is relaxation, but it’s also a concentrated meditation technique.  You’re concentrating on the breath.  You’re concentrating on the words “soft belly” and on the feeling of the belly being soft.  The studies that have been done that show the effectiveness of this technique or similar ones for decreasing anxiety, reducing symptoms of depression, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing levels of pain have often been done on 20 minutes twice a day (on this or similar relaxation approaches).  My own clinical experience, however, is that if you do this three to five minutes, three to five times a day it can make a very profound difference.