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Or “How to Relax Deeply in 3 Breaths”

RELAX FOR CHRISTMAS!

It sounds beyond simplistic to advise people to relax to have a stress-free holiday season.
“Nice idea Mark! But how the hell do we do that?”

And you're right, it just sounds like a platitude…. until you dive into the actual “technology” of relaxing.

What does relaxation mean?
And what relaxes?

To “relax” means to “return to loose or lax”.

It comes from the Latin – and combines the word “re” (which means “to return to” or to “go back back”) with laxare – (“to loosen”).
In 14th century it was a medical term “to make less dense or compact”.

So what is it in our bodies that become less dense, that returns to looseness?
It is of course our muscles.
It's not our bones, or organs, or blood! It's our muscles

Just as we know how to tense our muscles, we also know how to relax them… or do we?

The critical information and key point of muscle relaxation is that it's NOT something you do!
Relaxation is something you stop doing.

Muscle fibres are essentially binary with “on-off” switches. They don't partially tense. An individual muscle fibre is either on or off. When we are more tense we are contracting more muscles fibres.
When we are relaxed less muscle fibres are contracting.

How do we switch them off?
Simply by not tensing to them!
There is NO signal to tell a muscle fibre to relax (to return to it's lax/loose state).
They are binary – there is an “on” switch – and the “off” switch is the absence of the “on” signal!

When we are too stressed we are too tense.
That means we are tensing our muscles.
No-one else is. Right?

We might not be aware of it.
But we can become aware of it.
And then… we can stop doing it.

Muscle relaxation (the grand-daddy of ALL relaxation techniques) involves a sort of mindfulness of our tension sensations combined with the knowledge and sensation that we are doing that tension.
Then we simply stop doing it.

In a way it's becoming aware of the over-efforting that we constantly are doing with our bodies, and then to simply stop efforting.
All effort is tension.
So never make an effort to relax!

So how to relax?

How to Relax in Three Breaths


This short method will make a radical change in your tension and stress level within 2 minutes. Try it!

Key point:
Each exhalation is ideally long and soft and without any effort – the exhalation is controlled only by your lips which act like a valve to control the speed of the air leaving your lungs. No other effort!

You can imagine gently blowing a stream of bubbles on your exhalation to keep it long and soft and without effort.

Tension-Release Breath 1:
First make fists with both hands and tense your fists and arms and shoulders has hard as you can. Notice the feeling of that.
Take a breath in.
Hold.
Double the effort in the hands, arms and shoulders
Hold!
Then on the exhalation (long and soft) – let go of all that effort. Let go.

Follow the feeling of letting go of all that effort for a few breathes and let your breathing to return to normal or do it's own thing.
Good.

Tension-Release Breath 2
Now take a breath in and hold it.
As you hold it notice the feeling across your whole body and imagine you are tensing your whole body slightly.
Holding the breath and slightly tensing the whole body.

Hold it!

And then on the exhalation let go of that tension and let the whole body turn loose and limp. Let the arms, shoulders, legs turn loose and limp. Let your face turn soft and loose and limp.

Then follow the feeling of letting go of all that effort for a few breathes and let your breathing to return to normal or do it's own thing.

Tension-Release Breath 3
Not take a breath in and hold it.
As you hold your breath focus on your face and imagine you are tensing all the facial muscles – the jaw, tongue, lips, cheeks, eyes, forehead, frown area.
Holding the breath and focusing on a tension feeling in the face.
Hold it!

Hold the breath and the face!

Now a long soft exhalation and let go of all that tension in the face, let the face become soft.
Let the jaw relax, let the tongue relax, let the cheeks relax, let go of holding the forehead and let the frown area go.

Let your face turn soft and loose and limp.

Then follow the feeling of letting go of all that effort for a few breathes and let your breathing to return to normal or do it's own thing.

Now smile to yourself.
A simple smile, or even an imagined smile, combined with less tension is a wonderful feeling.

Notice how much more relaxed you are.

Practise this a few times – and see if you can do a combination of Breath 2 and Breath 3 – into a single tension release breath!

Then use that as many times a day as you want.

Be relaxed (return to your muscles to loosness) any time you want!

This is a skill you can develop to a level of quite impressive mastery!

This is taken from Hypno-CBT® Tension Release Breathing that I developed in 2007-2008. It's one of the central methods we teach on the Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy.
It's not hypnosis – but it can be integrated wonderfully with hypnosis, with mindfulness and with cognitive and behaviour therapies.

Here's a wonderful tension release breathing recording to listen to.
This is a 25 minute relaxation recording