Try energizing exercises instead of using relaxation techniques

Friday, January 25, 2008 | 4:00 p.m. CST; updated 12:15 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In my role and career as a counselor and life coach, I have had the opportunity to run self-improvement groups and topic-specific seminars. It was fun for me and helpful for many — at least that is my story, and I am sticking to it. And boy, would I get nervous before those seminars and groups. I had to figure out some pretty effective routines to help me over the stage fright because I would get it badly.

During one series of groups, the topics of relaxation techniques became a focus. So, I took the opportunity to share what I knew and what worked for me. On a weekly basis for about eight weeks, I taught a number of techniques and exercises I had used and knew of. Just before the group series ended, a few attendees asked me to record some of the relaxation exercises. Some required a third party or narrator to be most effective. Many of the group members wanted to have these techniques available after the series ended. They wanted to continue to use them.

We tried recording the exercises live, in the usual group session, but technical difficulties prevented any success. I told a few colleagues and friends about the attempts to record the exercises. One thing lead to another, a friend knew a friend, and I soon found myself in a professional recording studio. In a short time, we produced a CD of relaxation exercises. The CD was well received by clients as well as colleagues.

So I have developed, tried and taught a number of relaxation techniques. My affiliation with this niche skill really grew out of my own need to relax and calm myself. Some techniques were good and some not so good. Commonly, most relaxation techniques encourage you to notice and release tension in various muscles. Most help individuals discover new levels of relaxation. Individuals can use new methods that trigger them to a calm place in the midst of tense and chaotic lives. But for many, learning and practicing relaxation techniques is work. As a result, most people don’t even try or stick with them. Those who do follow through with the exercises generally quit after a short time because mastery requires a good amount of quiet, undisturbed alone time. I am older now, and busier. Relaxing is nice, but I would benefit from a little more energy in my life, thank you very much. When stressed out at work, stuck in traffic and behind schedule or when the kids are climbing the walls, I find it troublesome to “find a comfortable place free from any interruptions or distractions.” I need more energy to deal with these tense times!

So here is a twist on the relaxation exercise ... .

Instead of focusing on tension leaving one’s muscles, imagine and visualize energy flowing into them. Close your eyes and become aware of your fingers and toes and hands and feet and arms and legs, etc. Imagine a great energy flowing up from the ground and into the bottom of your feet and then throughout your body.

Imagine and anticipate the feeling of your body becoming full of this energy and then your different body parts becoming energized with feelings of newness and strength.

Try these energizing exercises with different muscles. Try to feel the difference between a relaxed or tense muscle and one now filled with energy and power. Notice the difference.

Do this with the muscles in your back and your legs and your shoulders and your neck.

You may do this with your breathing exercises as well. Take strong, deep breaths and become aware of increased energy and alertness and concentration. Imagine the air around you being filled with molecules and electrons of energy. Imagine as you breathe in, these particles of energy moving into your lungs and into your bloodstream. Imagine your muscles tingling with this new energy.

This twist on traditional relaxation techniques might be enough to give you a different experience of your body and mind’s own power and capacity to respond to stress more effectively. Energizing techniques: those are what we need. We need to find ways that give us the spark so we can go out there and prosper — again. We should use techniques that will help us go out there and fix ‘em — again. Now that’s what I am talking about.

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