If you have ever attended even just the occasional yoga class, you may have experienced the wonderful “other-worldly” feeling of deep relaxation at the end of a class, where you have become almost completely unaware of your body any more and have just felt as though you were floating and your mind was totally dissociated from any daily concerns or “to-do” lists – either that, or you fell asleep! – as attested to by the light snoring sounds often discerned at the end of such classes! Either way, you probably felt as though you just wanted to stay there and never come back – which is what many people say as they get up to leave a class. Unless you regularly practise relaxation techniques, meditation or self-hypnosis, you may never before have experienced such a deeply relaxed state (termed the “relaxation response” by Harvard doctor, Herbert Benson, M.D., back in the 1970s).
Practising yoga, Tai Chi, meditation and related practices can be wonderful methods of experiencing relaxation, and can help train us to elicit the “relaxation response” more easily. When we are doing the practices, we feel great – relaxed, focused, mindful (in the present moment). However, one problem can be that we attend a class, maybe once or twice a week, and feel great during the class – but the minute we leave, we are back to our rushing around, our mental “to-do” lists, our daily worries, fears, anxieties, planning, emails, texts, voicemails, etc.. and our poor body and mind have to wait until the next time we go to class to get a break! We can end up “compartmentalising” our experience of relaxation, instead of learning how to integrate it into our daily lives, so that we can tune in and switch down to a more relaxed and beneficial way of operating more and more of the time. And that lack of integration into our lives can have a great toll on our physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing, our productivity, and our quality of life in general.
That’s where Relaxation Training (or Applied Relaxation) comes in. We can learn to operate our lives in a more relaxed way more of the time. And this can make us more productive, happier and healthier, by increasing our mental and emotional resilience, boosting our immune system, increasing our ability to experience joy (“light-heartedness”), switching off “disease” genes, and reducing our susceptibility to (or enhancing our recovery from) stress-related illnesses such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and so on.
Relaxation Skills Training involves a number of stages, and I’ll describe these in more detail in a later blog entry, along with the wider benefits. But basically the stages are: 1) experience deep relaxation; 2) practise eliciting this state; 3) learn to elicit relaxation “on cue”; 4) imagine facing anxiety/stress situations – usually in hypnosis – while practising your relaxation skills; 5) use your relaxation skills in “real-world” situations; 6) your relaxation skills become integrated into your everyday life.
If you’d like to find out more about relaxation skills training or hypnotherapy, or if you have any other questions, please contact me at AJR Hypnotherapy Surrey by email or phone (see top right of this page). Amanda Jackson-Russell: clinical and cognitive-behavioural hypnotherapist; stress management consultant; relaxation, meditation and mindfulness instructor; researcher, editor and writer.