07 March 2011

Relaxation in daily life

Met a guy recently who said he was really busy. Quite a bit stressed and his head was full to overflowing. Said he was going to take a half hour break and settle himself by reading the paper.

He got me to wondering about relaxation in daily life. What does it for you? In this blog is a great technique that works for many, but how do you relax and regain a level keel when the pressure is on and things seem out of balance?

Seems to me there are many ways people seek to relax. Some work really well and have no downside, others come at quite a cost.

The expensive ones include things like smoking and drinking alcohol, but let’s go out on a limb here and say that does not necessarily make them bad things. Just expensive. If the best way a person has to relax is to smoke or drink alcohol, and if they get stressed out and do something really unhelpful, really damaging or just plain dumb; then maybe if the smoking and booze do succeed in bringing relaxation, then they are actually relatively helpful. Just expensive.

So perhaps it is useful to consider how stress and anxiety do affect you, if at all, and then how expensive are the methods you use to manage them. I am sure some people find taking out their stress via anger, and yelling at others, abusing others, works quite well for them. But maybe as a methodology it is just a bit expensive.

What then are some low cost strategies for finding relaxation in daily life. Well, walking is well tried and tested. And it has a myriad of positive “side effects”! A few deep breaths can work wonders. Laughing is about the same cost as smiling and both seem to work well. What works for you? It would be interesting to get some feedback on this.

Certainly one of the easy ways is to learn and practise a simple rapid relaxation technique. A reliable way to do this is by taking a somewhat deeper breath in, gently sighing the breath out and feeling the whole body relax in the process.

This is an easy skill to learn, and once you know it , it provides a quick way to relieve tension and stress. What is required is to link a more formal meditation practice with this very quick relaxation trigger. The meditation technique needs to teach you how to relax the body ( as with the progressive muscle relaxation) and calm the mind (as with most meditation techniques).

Then you need an intermediary process to give the same effect of relaxing the body and calming the mind really quickly. It still makes sense to meditate more formally each day, but with this rapid relaxation you can take the benefits into daily life.

Here than is the linking exercise  from Meditation – an In-depth Guide -the Rapid Relaxation Exercise. It only takes a few minutes and is best done sitting in a chair with your back fairly straight. It works well to read the exercise through, familiarize yourself with it for a few moments, and then give it a go. (It is available on the CD Relaxation for Everyone).

So if you would like to try it, take a moment to adjust your position, ensuring your back is as upright as is comfortable.


Place your feet flat on the floor, a little apart, and then find where your hands are most comfortable—probably just resting on your thighs or cupped in your lap. Just notice what works best for you, and then, when you are ready, let your eyes gently close.

Now, take a deep breath in . . . and gently sigh the breath out . . .gently making the sound ahhhhh ( you can do this under you breath if you want to do this exercise in a public space – it is great for on the way home in bus, tram or train!). . .

As you sigh the breath out, you will probably notice a wave of relaxation flowing down through the body with the outbreath. . . the muscles softening . . . loosening . . . relaxing . . . releasing . . . just simply letting go.

Do that once again . . . another, deeper breath in . . .gently sighing the breath out . . . ahhhhhhh . . .

And then just allowing the breath to take up whatever rhythm feels comfortable for you at the moment . . . quite effortlessly . . . effortlessly . . . just feeling the ease of it all . . .

Now notice the feeling of letting go a little more with each out breath . . . each time that you breath out…just simply letting go…more and more…deeper and deeper…letting go…

And now, move your back a little from side to side in a gentle swaying motion . . . just enough to feel your spine moving across its point of balance . . . And as you do that, feel the muscles along either side of the spine softening and loosening . . . relaxing . . . releasing . . . and then the spine coming to rest in its point of balance . . .

Another deeper breath in . . . gently sighing the breath out . . . ahhhhhhh . . . just simply letting go.

Then move the head a little from side to side . . . again just a gentle swaying motion . . . just enough to feel the head moving across its point of balance . . . And as you do that, feel the muscles along either side of the neck softening and loosening . . . relaxing . . . releasing . . . And the head coming to rest in its point of balance . . . Another deeper breath in . . . gently sighing the breath out . . . ahhhhhhh.

And now moving the head a little from front to back . . . and then tilting it a little from side to side . . . Feel the ease of the movement . . . almost like the head is a helium balloon just floating there . . . and the neck, like a string, gently holding it in place . . . And then the head coming to rest in its point of balance . . . Simply resting now in that point of balance . . . quite effortlessly . . . effortlessly . . . just feeling the ease of it all . . . the ease of it all . . . just going with it . . . going with it . . . simply letting go.

Again, sit quietly for as long as you choose . . . Then, when you are ready, just let your eyes gently open.

Once you have mastered this step, it is easy to really cut to the chase. Deeper breath in, gently sigh the breath out, relax and let go. Simple as that.

Questions or feedback always welcome.

Happy relaxing.


Book: Meditation - an In-depth Guide - Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson

CDs: Meditation- a Complete Guide - Ian Gawler

         Relaxation for Everyone - Ian Gawler

Meditation programs; The Gawler Foundation

         Ian's coming workshops

Related blogs
         Meditation - how much is enough?

         Meditation and satisfaction


  1. Always lovely to be reminded of the simple power of the breath - connecting us with the world and relaxing us into the present.

  2. Hi Ian and Co

    I find that music and exercise do it for me. I play an instrument, the double bass and I will go to that if I find myself out of sorts. I run Smilercise classes which are 'gentle exercises to be happy'. Also just to do a little housework, can be helpful. Thank you muchly for your 'Out on A Limb' postings.

    Karen Canberra

  3. can I just add that the Gawler and Bedson guide, along with any one of Ian's CDs, is worth every penny, and hardly expensive when compared with some of the methods mentioned above.
    As a bonus, the CD has Ian's amazingly soothing voice.
    Thanks for this blog, it is lovely.