What we already knew about relaxation in 1986
Based on this wonderful article by Daniel Goleman (he also wrote a well known book called Emotional Intelligence).
- relaxation may help ward off disease by making people less susceptible to viruses
- relaxation training has been found to widen restricted respiratory passages for asthmatics
- relaxation can reduce the need for insulin in some diabetics
- relaxation can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- ANY form of deep relaxation seems to bring these benefits
- the degree of benefits depends on the rigor with which people use the relaxation techniques
“The medical advantages are not from ordinary relaxing activities, such as catnaps or gardening, but from intensive techniques that allow people to evoke a specific physiological state.”
The article mentions a variety of relaxation techniques including meditation, progressive muscle relaxation (tense and release) and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s now very well known mindfulness exercises.
The techniques that I use for relaxation are:
- Restorative Yoga (using props to support the body in a position so comfortable relaxation is inevitable, after 15 minutes or so)
- Yoga Nidra (using a specific series of words and images to induce a state of relaxation via the mind
- Breathing Techniques (in particular lengthening of the exhalation to induce a state of relaxation via the breath)
These three techniques are not mutually exclusive (you can set up a restorative pose and practice yoga nidra which focuses on long exhalations) but I think its worth noting that relaxation can be induced in different ways and different methods will suit different people at different times.
The important take away from the article seems to be that to get the benefits you do actually have to do your chosen practice, and the more often you do it, the more benefit you will receive.
So, however you do it, keep doing it!