The 7:11 Breathing Pattern
You can practice a special type of breathing, not into your chest but deep into your
tummy or diaphragm which is below your chest. The important thing here is that the
out breath must be longer that the in breath. This causes stimulation of the part of
your nervous system responsible for relaxation. This is a basic law of biology and if you
breathe in this way then your body will have no choice but to relax.
It may take a few minutes but the body will respond regardless of what your mind is
Sit down and close your eyes for a little while. Just become aware of your breathing,
and breathe in to the count of seven, and breathe out to the count of eleven (or
whatever numbers are comfortable for you, such as 3/5). You can hold for a couple of
seconds at the bottom of the out breath if that’s comfortable for you.
It may be a little difficult at first, but doing this regularly causes your general anxiety
level to come down. You may also find that you begin to breathe this way automatically
if you feel anxious. Regular relaxation actually starts to inhibit the production of
stress hormones in the body so it actually becomes harder and harder to panic. As you
become more generally relaxed the ‘baseline’ of arousal from which you are starting
lowers. It actually becomes harder to get stressed.
Clenched Fist Method
Settle yourself comfortably and then make your hands into the tightest fists possible.
(If you have exceptionally long fingernails, just clasp both hands tightly together,
interlocking the fingers.)
Look at your fists carefully as you squeeze them harder andharder, being aware of the whiteness of your knuckles, the feeling of your nails againstyour palms, the pressure of your thumbs against your forefingers and the rigidity ofyour wrists. Notice too the tension moving up your arms to your elbows and shoulders.
Keep squeezing your fists like this and concentrate on the physical sensations for a
moment or two. To help you concentrate, close your eyes. Then, with all your
concentration focused on the change that develops between tension and relaxation,
allow your fingers and hands to slowly unwind. Still with your eyes closed, feel the
enjoyable sensation of relaxation spreading quite naturally through your fingers and up
along your arms as the tension drains away.
You may find it takes the form of whateveryour body needs – coolness if you tend to be too hot or warmth if you tend to feel too cold – or else you might just feel a pleasant tingling sensation.Whatever form it takes, let the relaxing sensation spread through your body, relaxingyour brow, your cheek muscles, your jaw, your shoulders, chest and so on, down to your toes. Keep your focuson the falling away of stress and the calming differences you can sense in your body,perhapsimagining it draining away from your feet and disappearing into the floor. You can keeprepeating this for as long as you like, while you enjoy noticing the calming changes thatoccur throughoutyour body. As your body relaxes, so does your mind.
The Whole Body method
This highly effective method is also derived from yoga and achieves relaxation in a
similar way. Work gradually through the main muscles of your body,
tensing each in turn for a count of 10 and then relaxing them. As in the previous
technique, this works on the simple mechanical principle that, if you tense muscles and
then relax them, your muscles are always more relaxed afterwards than before you
tensed them. Try starting with your feet, move up to your calf muscles, then your
knees, your thighs, your tummy muscles and so on.
Safe and Special Place
You can make relaxing an even more pleasant and rewarding experience by using the
time with your eyes closed to waft yourself away mentally to some pleasant imaginary
place, or to a real place that you love to go to. People often choose to imagine
themselves walking on empty beaches by the sea, or in the mountains, or by a stream, or
sitting in their own gardens.
Children might choose their bedrooms or to imaginethemselves in outer space. You can make the scene whatever you want it to be. If youare more relaxed when there are other people around, incorporate their presence intoyour imaginings too. Perhaps you relax through a physical activity, such as playingfootball or squash, dancing, cycling or walking in the park, in which case visualiseyourself enjoying that activity. Wherever you choose to be and whatever you choose todo there, concentrate on making the occasion as real as it can be. Really try to see thecolours of the sandy beach, or the flowers or football shirts. Hear the sounds – thegentle whoosh of rippling waves, the rustling of leaves, the voices of the players.
Feel the textures; smell the smells.Imagine your chosen scene in detail, so that you can make it your very own‘special, safe place’, one you will always be able to call to mind and enjoy whenrelaxed – or to use to help you to relax, when you need to very quickly.