Mind-Body Relaxation

Mind-Body Relaxation

Even the best sleepers have nights where they have to extend effort to unwind at bedtime. There are several easy ways to assist you in switching to relaxation mode. Here are some slumber-inducing tips:

            ° Visualization. The mind is a powerful tool, and this technique requires only the ability to imagine a pleasant place. Lie in bed in a comfortable position, with your eyes closed. Start to visualize a calm place of your choosing. It can be an imaginary location, a beach in Fiji or a walk in the woods. Wherever it is, it should be quiet and calm. Hold the scene within, and feel how relaxed you become. The more real it feels, the looser your body will become. Slowly, allow yourself to continue relaxing until you drift off to sleep, or return to the present moment and relax into slumber.

            ° Tense up and let go. This technique, known as progressive muscle relaxation, has been successfully used to let anxiety fall away from the body. Starting with your feet and moving up to your head, tense each muscle group while you slowly breathe in, and then release the tension as you breathe out. Take an extra breathe as you focus on the relaxation/release of each muscle group. Even relax your jaw, your eyes, forehead, and lips. Let your thoughts go and allow your mind to remain passive. Once you’ve relaxed your body using this technique, you’re in the alpha state of brain wave patterns, and on your way to sleep.

            ° Alpha audio. There are many music CD’s available that assist the brain waves in transitioning from beta waves (being awake) to alpha waves (relaxation, pre-sleep). Binaural beat technology (also known as Hemi-Sync®) works by sending slightly different tones to the left and right ears. The brain compensates by creating a third tone inside the mind at a specific frequency. This frequency is specifically chosen to generate a certain mood, such as relaxation. The ‘beats’ are overlaid with soothing sounds, such as the ocean, rain falling, or soft music. This technology is safe, but not advised for those prone to epileptic seizures.

            ° Yoga. It’s been around for thousands of years and is practiced by 11 million Americans. Although the touted benefits are increased range of motion in joints, greater flexibility, balance and posture, yoga can aid in getting better sleep. There are many breathing mudras and pranayamas that restore balance to the body and encourage relaxation. One pose you can do in your pj’s is to lie on your back with your legs straight up against the wall (or headboard) and arms at your side. Hold this position for 3-5 minutes and you’ll notice a difference in how you feel. Spinal twist (or winding down twist), child’s pose and goddess pose also provide pre-bedtime relaxation. A form of yoga known as Yin Yoga is gaining in popularity. It helps to loosen the joints and the fascia that surrounds muscles. It is a floor-based practice and each position is held for 5-10 minutes. It’s very passive and the duration of each pose encourages slow and deep relaxation.

            ° Bedtime tea. Mother nature may have some advice for us when seeking a good night’s sleep.  Many herbal (non-caffeine) teas are available for enjoyment and help us relax after dinner. Chamomile is gently relaxing, aids in digestion and is good for relieving anxiety. Drinking a cup about an hour before bedtime can promote sleep.  Herbal teas containing passionflower, lavender and lemon balm can induce calm and sleep. The Aztecs were familiar with the properties of passionflower and used it for it’s sedating effects. Adding a little honey to tea is said to be beneficial to aiding sleep as well as having antioxidant value. Be sure not to drink too much tea too close to bedtime or you’ll be up during the night going to the bathroom. But that caveat aside, there’s nothing like a warm cup of herbal tea to help you release restlessness of your mind and body.