Three Easy Relaxation Exercises that can be Practiced Anywhere, Even at Work

by Brian P. Ramos

One of the best things that you can do for your health is to learn some simple exercises for relaxation. Relaxation techniques help to keep your body balanced, enhance your creativity, increase your energy, and reduce the chances of stress becoming your enemy. This is certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach as there are a variety of techniques available.

For additional techniques to the ones I recommend in this article, I suggest you read my top handbook for conquering stress, “The Art of Stress-Free Living: Reprogram your Life from the Inside Out.” Read on as well for a brief overview of each relaxation technique so that you can decide which one will be right for you. In addition, please check out my YouTube channel, DNA Hacker Secrets, for various videos on how to manage anxiety and stress.

For best results, practice two to three times a day, for at least 10 minutes at a time. Also, make sure to fit in time during work hours to do this effective and powerful self-care. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, consult with your superiors and encourage them to support wellness practices in the workplace as this will most certainly improve employee morale, productivity, and efficiency.

  1. Visualization & Positive Imagery for Relaxation

Visualization exercises use the power of the imagination to bring about the desired state, in this case of relaxation. Remember that CONCENTRATION + IMAGINATION = REALITY. Insert breaks to your schedule, especially when hectic to prevent the accumulation of stress hormones that can impair brain function and lead to a number of health issues. Remember that around 80% of all doctor’s visits are due to stress.

Therefore, practice visualization techniques, like the one below, to redirect your attention away from all of your worries, concerns, or items on your to-do list. Imagine a visualization exercise like a vacation for your mind. Imagine yourself in a place that represents tranquility and freedom. It can be a place you have actually been to or just a place in your mind’s eye.

Practice visualizations in a quiet setting and make sure to use your breath as an anchor by making it slow and deep. As you relax with the breath, then let it be what it will and focus on your visualization.

Visualization Exercise: White Sandy Beach

Imagine that you are resting on a white sandy beach and feel at ease, focused, and calm as you think about the following:

  • Turquoise water and a clear, blue sky
  • The sound of soft waves as the tide gently rolls in
  • The weight of your body sinking into the sand
  • The warmth of the sand on your feet or the coolness of the water splashing onto your legs
  • Bring the image of the sun to space in between your eyebrows as it cleanses and heals the brain and mind.

Make sure your face is relaxed and you let go of any tension in your forehead, as your eyebrows separate, your neck softens, your throat opens, and your jaw drops. Soften your eyes and mouth. Allow your breath to slow down and match the rhythm of the rolling waves (i.e. inhale as the waves come towards you and exhale as they move away). There should be no effort; spend time just taking it all in.

Once this relaxation feels complete (avoid using a timer with an alarm that could startle and stress you after reaching a state of relaxation!), imagine that you get up and slowly walk away from the beach. Remember that this beautiful place is available for you whenever you need it. Take your time and slowly open your eyes.

Use Your Own Creativity

If the scene above is not for you, come up with your own visualization. Think of a place or situation that you find to be very relaxing, such as lying down in a large field of flowers and grass, or enjoying a beautiful view of a mountain or forest. When visualizing your calming scene, think about what you are experiencing through all of your senses. Notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, and what you feel. When you feel ready to leave your relaxation scene, take your time and gradually return your mind to the present.

To get better at visualization, try practicing at least several times a day. Relaxation techniques tend to be more helpful if you first start practicing at a time when you are not experiencing high anxiety. Through regular practice, you will more easily be able to use visualization when you really need it, especially before stress turns into panic or anxiety.

2. Slow, Deep Breathing

Of all of the relaxation techniques available to you, deep breathing exercises that emphasize a longer exhale (i.e. twice as long as inhale) are the most practical and powerful because you can use them whenever you need them and they tap into your peripheral nervous system to decrease the stress response and quiet the mind.

Deep, diaphragmatic breathing also breaks the tendency you will often demonstrate during stress, which is to switch to quick, broken, and shallow breathing. By slowing your breath down, your brain can reach quietude and calmness much easier, as your body’s natural stress response is lessened. With regular practice, you can get to the point where taking a few deeps breaths brings about significant anxiety relief in an instant.

I highlight ways to gain greater control in the “The Art of Stress-Free Living” and I share techniques specific for anxiety or excessive mental activity (see DNA Hacker Secrets Channel).

Steps

  1. Sit upright in a comfortable chair with your feet placed side by side on the floor. If you can, sit on the floor or lie down (if you will not fall asleep!). Close your eyes.
  2. Place one hand on your abdomen, near the belly button, and the other on your chest.
  3. Observe first the rise and fall of your abdomen and then the expansion and contraction of the chest cavity. Use this to center you in the present as you bring your attention back to the body with each breath, if interrupted by thoughts or to-do list items. Make sure to keep your shoulders relaxed and your neck loose.
  4. Inhale slowly to the count of four and exhale with control for 8 seconds by constricting the throat, ujjayi breathing. When you inhale, think Sooooo, and when you exhale, think Huuummm. Alternatively, imagine healing light coming in when you inhale, and when you exhale, you let go of darkness weighing you down.
  5. Practice for at least 10 minutes twice per day.

If anxious, avoid retaining your breath between your inhales and exhales. Emphasize lengthening the breaths, especially the exhale. With practice, it will become easier to lengthen your breaths so that the breathing will be smooth and continuous.

As you become proficient you will find that you can use this breathing exercise without closing your eyes, and yes, even while doing work or driving the car. It can thus become a tool you can access at any point in the day. If you need to you can use it when sitting in traffic, while busy at work, when running late, or when you find yourself dealing with a difficult person.

If you want to accentuate the relaxation and anxiolytic effect, try inhaling only through the left nostril and exhaling only through the right nostril (Chandra Bhedana Kumbhaka). I describe this in “The Art of Stress-Free Living” and in a great video on YouTube.

3. Muscle Relaxation Exercises

If you have ever practiced Yoga Asana and savasana (relaxation pose), you know that progressive muscle relaxation is a way to systematically relax all of the muscles in your body. We do this often as we go about the day, we unnecessarily contract various muscles, leading to chronic tension and waste of energy that could otherwise go elsewhere (like clenching the jaw or contracting upper back muscles). Learning to consciously relax the muscles counters this daily unconscious behavior and saves your energy for the things that really matter.

Over time, you can just tell yourself to relax to quickly make your body be as loose as a rag doll. Muscle relaxation exercises should be done in a comfortable chair or on the floor (ideally lying down, if you can avoid falling asleep). Doing them right before bed is an excellent idea as a more relaxed body will sleep better. Learn how to practice what is called Yoga Nidra, which I describe in “The Art of Stress-Free Living” and I teach at my retreats and events.

Instructions

1. Take a deep inhale, make a tight fist with your left hand and hold it for a count of three. On an exhale, think the word “relax” and release all the tension in that left hand. Take a moment or two to focus on the difference in the sensations of a tense muscle versus that of a relaxed muscle.

2. Using the same technique, one by one, tense and relax each muscle, one by one. Move from the left hand to wrist and forearm, then upper arm and shoulder. Do the same for the right arm. Then move up your left leg, starting at your feet. Then switch to the right leg. Add tension on the inhale to any muscle, think the word “relax” as you exhale and let the muscle become loose and dead like.

3. Move to the back (upper, then mid, and lower). Afterward, move to the abdomen, chest, and neck. Tense and relax the muscles in your torso.

  • Shoulders: Point them up to the ceiling on the inhale. Exhale, let them relax and hang loose.
  • Chest: Tighten the chest muscles on a deep inhale, and then let the tension deflate on the exhale.
  • Abdomen: Tighten your belly as if someone is going to punch you, then let your belly go slack. Feel a spread of warmth throughout your entire torso.

Work on tensing and relaxing the face.

  • Forehead: Frown like you are angry or puzzled. Exhale and smooth it out.
  • Eyes: Screw up your eyes like a baby crying. Then exhale and release the tension.
  • Jaw and cheeks: Clench your teeth and jaw as if in anger. Exhale and relax. Feel a sense of warmth and relaxation throughout your entire face.

Once your entire body is relaxed, remain still and let your breath be what it may. Enjoy just being in that moment and if thoughts distract you, bring your attention back to whatever muscle you are working on or to your present state of relaxation and wellbeing. With time, you can relax the body without tensing your muscles first, as you would at a yoga studio during relaxation.

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