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Intentional Relaxation

Posted Sep 30 2010 8:49pm
When I was a kid my parents taught me, without realizing it, one of the most valuable tools for chronic pain relief, relaxation, and emotional balance. When it was time to go to bed, they would tuck me in and either read a story, sing me a song or do the "relaxation game" It wasn't actually a game, but whatever it was, it helped me go to sleep! Now I call it Intentional Relaxation.

Intentional Relaxation, or relaxation for a purpose, is one of the most effective (non-food) ways to relieve chronic pain. Intentional Relaxation is a term that I just made up, but the idea is not new. The basic idea is that you are laying down in a relaxing place (which is ideal, but this can realistically be done anywhere) with the intention of feeling where there is tension and pain in your body and consciously relaxing those areas.

When you spend some time everyday working with your body to feel its pain, relaxing the muscles and joints, and releasing the tension, you start to notice a difference in your overall pain levels. Anytime I'm overwhelmed or have a moment to spare, I lay down on my back, put a pillow under my knees and relax.

So, back to the relaxation game...The way you play the game is to lay down and get comfortable. You most likely won't fall asleep unless you already feel like sleeping. In that case, you should take a nap anyways. Set your alarm if you're worried about falling asleep. Once you are laying down and you are in a comfortable position, go through the following routine (or game!). This is the part that my parents would say aloud to me as I followed their instruction. You can follow along while you're sitting here reading this. You don't always have to be laying down. In fact, it is a great refresher if you need a break from work!

Take a deep breath and let it allllllll out.
Relax your toes and your feet. Relax your heels. Relax your ankles and your lower legs. 
Take a deep breath and let it alllllll out.
Now relax your knees, your knee caps and your thighs. Relax your hips and your butt. 
Relax your lower back. 
Relax your belly. Let your breathe come in and out easily. 
Take a deep breath and let it allllllll out.
Relax your stomach and your chest. Relax your rib cage and your spine. 
Relax your back and your neck muscles. 
Breath in and let it allllll out.
Feel your arms. Relax the muscles of you arms. Relax your wrists. Relax your fingers and your palms.
Breath in and out.
Focus on relaxing your neck muscles. Open your throat and relax your jaw. 
Relax you cheeks and you ears. Relax your lips and your nose. Relax your eyes. Relax your forehead. 
Relax you brain.
Take a deep breath and let it all out.

By this time we would say goodnight and I would be asleep. This is my continuation onto that technique

Feel the sensations in your body. Where is there tension? Relax your body and feel the pain melting away. Close you eyes and take a mental inventory of the feelings in your muscles and bones. Where do you feel tense? Relax your body and know that everything is okay. There is no need to tense up. 
Take a deep breath into the area of pain, and blow out the pain with your exhale. 

I hope you all try this, it is wonderful to help you settle down if you are anxious or stressed. And, it's easy to remember how to do so you can take it anywhere with you!
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