Sometimes it feels like life is pulling us in 1,000 different directions. To-do lists. Responsibilities. Stressors. So it’s no surprise that while we have all heard about the benefits of Mindfulness and meditation, we easily fall into the trap of thinking we “don’t have time to meditate.”
That’s part of why I love yoga so much. Yoga is moving meditation. When we focus on the breath and sensations in the body, when we concentrate enough to pair breath with movement — these are all forms of Mindfulness and meditation.
Plus, yoga has other benefits. It makes our bodies feel good and strong. Our tensions release. We gain flexibility. We make friends. To me, this is the perfect combo. Even on days when I feel like I “don’t have time,” often one of those many benefits starts calling my name, and I end up making my way to my mat or chair.
Hey, no judgment — whatever gets you there. The good news is that regardless of what draws you to the practice on any given day, you’ll still end up with the peaceful mental benefits.
One of my favorite ways to settle into a quiet space for meditation is to use progressive body relaxation.
It’s pretty simple: start at one end of your body and work your way to the other, pausing to relax each muscle as you go.
That said, you have some options to make the meditation your own:
1. Use muscles. The form of this technique that I’ve seen most often in a psychology/cognitive behavioral therapy environment instructs you to actually clench the muscle groups as you go, and then actively release them. I’ve seen a psychiatry lecture where this technique was cited as being just as effective as benzodiazepines at helping people relax – with way less potential for addiction.
2. Use the mind. Often, however, in a yoga setting, it’s more common to be instructed to simply imagine the muscles relaxing instead of actually moving them. This is my favorite way. But even then, you have options. Sometimes I like to imagine that I am looking at myself from the outside, almost like my body is a diagram, and then I imagine each space relaxing. Other times, I like to try to concentrate on feeling my body within when I visit each area. I think it’s fun to see what I can actually feel in my face, my neck, my stomach, my fingertips, etc. Sometimes we are ignoring bodily sensations and don’t even realize it, so it can be nice to use your body scan as a chance to check in.
Ready? Try it. Here is a recording of a Progressive Body Relaxation that I made for you to try.