It is essential to be in touch
with your body in order to develop the skills of concentration leading
to meditation. If your body is tense, you cannot focus on the mind. So
the first step in learning to concentrate, which leads to meditation
skills, is to learn to let go of the body tension and awareness.
When you first try this exercise, you may want to begin by lying on the
floor or on your bed. However, if you are tired, you may find that you
cannot stay awake and you won't be able to develop the skill of
conscious relaxation. This is a great exercise to help you sleep better
at night, but for purposes of developing an awakened sense of
relaxation, consider whether lying down works for you or not. If you
too easily drift off to sleep, begin by sitting in a chair where you
are comfortable and your back is straight and your feet touch the
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Loosen any tight clothing, such as your shoes, collar, or belt. Whether
you begin by lying down or not, you will eventually graduate to sitting
either in a chair or on the floor. The purpose of this technique is to
be able to mentally call relaxation to your body anytime, anywhere,
regardless of where you are or in what physical position you find
yourself. You will scan your entire body, locating tension pockets and
relax each area, one area at a time, releasing tension completely.
Focus your attention on your breath until your breathing begins to slow
and deepen. Keep your mind focused on your breath. You might also
conjure some peaceful image as you do this exercise. As you do so, you
have already begun to relax.
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First focus on your feet, beginning at the toes. Starting with the
toes, wiggle your toes, squeezing and flexing, and then relax and
release any tension. Next, rotate the ankles, followed by flexing and
pointing the feet. Then relax and release. Move up to the calves and
the long muscles of the thighs with your attention, tensing and
relaxing until you can let the tension go; your feet will fall outward
Now, move your attention to your abdomen, midriff and lower back. This
is another part of your body that can easily carry excess tension.
Tighten your abdominals; hold the tension for a count of five, and then
release. Do this two more times, releasing tension each time you relax.
You may find yourself adjusting the angle of your lower back as you
encounter and release tension.
Your shoulders and arms are next. Shrug your shoulders, tense and
release your arms, clench and release your hands. Do this three times
and finally, release all tension and let your arms and shoulders relax.
Even as you are relaxing and feeling your tension drain away, remember
to continue focusing on your breath. Between each area of focus, draw
your attention back to the breath and let all tension leave your body
with the out-breath and draw in a sense of relaxation with the
Are there any other tense muscles in your head or face or neck?
Probably so, since this is a major focal point for tension. Focus
directly on your facial muscles, opening the mouth and eyes wide three
times and then consciously release tension and let your face relax. If
you feel tension in your neck, turn your head slowly to the right and
then the left a few times and finally, settle the neck to relax.
Finally, shift your attention to the very top of your head. Consciously
tighten the scalp by lifting your eyebrows and then scrunching them. Do
this a few times and when you release and relax the tension, your scalp
At first you may have to retrace these steps until all regions of your
body are relaxed at the same time. Keep at it until you are able to
relax completely. By focusing attention and deliberate movement on
various areas of the body, you are able to let those muscles to relax.
When you have mastered this method of relaxation, you will have gained
control of the tension you are prone to carrying in your body and you
will be able to relax at will for the rest of your life. Focusing on
your breath, you can maintain this sense of control by simple
association. As a result, you can relax even if you are in a room full
of people. This is also a great beginning point to begin your
You should practice this exercise daily. In time, being able to relax
will not take you 15 to 20 minutes, but rather moments. By simply
scanning the body with the mind, and focusing on the breath, you will
be able to achieve quickly any level of relaxation you desire.
©2005-2007 TAO Consultant, Inc. All rights reserved.
Chesa Keane has taught meditation and self-help for more than 30 years.
To receive your free Basic Relaxation Techniques MP3 and an
introduction to a unique meditation tool, the TAO Totem, visit: www.taototem.com.