Conscious Relaxation Techniques: How to Unplug, Reset and Revitalize
Article At A Glance
Most of us need to unplug and relax. Conscious relaxation takes only a few minutes and can lead to greater vitality and overall well-being. When we relax, our blood pressure, heart rate, digestive functioning, and hormonal levels shift toward balance. Our brain waves typically slow down, and we can experience a blissful state of well-being.
Author Anne Lamott said, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes … including you.” Finding healthy, productive ways to unplug is important during stressful, difficult times. The practice of conscious relaxation can do that for you. Reduce stress, and anxiety and increase inner awareness as you experience deeper relaxation by incorporating conscious relaxation techniques in your daily life.
What Is Consciousness?
First: What does it mean to be conscious?
That depends on who you ask and what level of being conscious you want to work on. Consciousness, at its simplest, is awareness of internal or external existence and experience. It is the most familiar and yet the most mysterious aspect of our lives in Earth school.
To answer this question, we have to look at the relationship between the brain, mind, and consciousness. The brain is a visible, tangible part of the physical body. It weighs about 3.3 lbs. (1.5 kilograms), makes up about two percent of a human’s body weight, and contains billions of nerve fibers, which are connected by trillions of synapses. The brain is the physical structure that explains how we think. During an autopsy, the brain can be seen, touched, and dissected.
The mind is the source of our thoughts, emotions, and what we think and feel. It influences our view of the world, our actions, and how we relate to ourselves, others, and life in general. Your conscious mind is what you use when you pay attention to your physical body, its movement
through space, your breath, the beating of your heart, awareness of bodily functions such as digestion and elimination and to notice changing energy levels throughout your day. Mind and consciousness are not physical. During an autopsy, mind and consciousness cannot be seen, touched or dissected.
Understanding Deep Relaxation: What Is Mind, and What Is Consciousness?
So the next question might be: “is consciousness in the mind or is the mind in consciousness?” Here’s my answer: If consciousness is limited to the mind, our focus is generally on the five-sense material world and what we think, feel, and do.
Here’s an example of this:
- Thinking: Why is traffic so backed up? I’m going to be late for class.
- Feeling: I am frustrated and irritated.
- Behavior: My lips are tight, and my hands are drumming the steering wheel.
If we think of the mind as being in consciousness, we can uncover material from the deeper levels of our consciousness to learn why we think, feel, and act as we do. Here’s an example of that:
- Thinking: Traffic is backed up. I’m going to be late for class. I’ll have to wait. It is what it is.
- Feeling: I feel frustrated and irritated. I don’t like waiting. It brings up my fear of not being in control.
- Behavior: I’ll take some deep breaths, put on some relaxing music and wait. If traffic doesn’t clear up in 10 minutes, I’ll call and let them know I’ll be late. It is what it is.
What Does It Mean to Relax Truly?
This is a bit easier to define. Relaxation is a state of being free from tension and anxiety. It’s about resting your mind and body, an important aspect of self-care. Relaxation takes place on all layers of self-awareness. When we relax, our blood pressure, heart rate, digestive functioning, and hormonal levels shift toward balance. Our brain waves typically slow down, and we can experience a blissful state of well-being.
Conscious Relaxation Techniques: A Partnership Between Mind and Body
Conscious relaxation allows you to remain awake and aware while relaxed in order to observe, understand, manage, and integrate your experience. This awareness involves both the everyday mind and the Witness. Sometimes both are tuned in, and sometimes the mind drifts, but the Witness remains aware. This often happens during guided practices. How many times have you experienced something like, “My mind was floating off somewhere between here and wherever, but I heard every word in the practice!”
If you are new to doing guided relaxation practices or suffer from PTSD or trauma, look for one that keeps you firmly grounded in body and breath awareness. Before you begin, choose a technique, such as mind control, that enables you to dial down any uncomfortable intensity or a thick glass wall through which to watch what arises from a distance. At any time during the practice, you can continue or withdraw completely. Understand that you, not the instructor, are in control of your conscious relaxation experience.
How to Practice Conscious Relaxation
It can be helpful to record the practice on your phone or tablet and then play it back. If you don’t like the sound of your voice, ask a friend to do it for you. With practice, you’ll be able to self-guide without digital aid.
Relaxation Technique: Rotation of Consciousness
- Find a comfortable position lying down or seated. Take a breath in and out, and begin.
- Bring awareness to the right side of your body and to the right hand, the fingers, palm of the hand, back of the hand, the wrist, the lower arm, the elbow, the upper arm, the shoulder, the armpit, the right waist, hip, thigh, kneecap, the calf muscle, the ankle, the heel, the sole of the right foot, the top of the foot, and all five toes.
- Bring awareness to the left side of your body and to the left hand, the fingers, palm of the hand, back of the hand, the wrist, the lower arm, the elbow, the upper arm, the shoulder, the armpit, the left waist, hip, thigh, kneecap, the calf muscle, the ankle, the heel, the sole of the left foot, the top of the foot, and all five toes.
- Bring awareness to the back of the body. Become aware of the right shoulder blade, the left shoulder blade, the right buttock, the left buttock, the spine, and the whole back together. Pause.
- Bring awareness to the top of the head, to the forehead, the right eye, the left eye, the right ear, the left ear, the right cheek, the left cheek, the tip of the nose, the upper lip, the lower lip, the chin, the throat, the right shoulder, the left shoulder, the right hip, the left hip and the whole front of the torso.
- Bring awareness to the whole of the right leg, the whole of the left leg, and both legs together. Bring awareness to the whole of the right arm, the whole of the left arm, and both arms together. Bring awareness to the whole body, the whole body, the whole body together. Allow awareness of the whole body. See the whole body. Pause. Visualize this image in your mind. Allow the whole body to experience a relaxed state of awareness.
- Rest for as long as you like before slowly stretching and finishing the practice or drifting off to sleep.