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The Namaste Project

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Dr. Priti Ojha

Restorative Yoga Practice

Relaxation Techniques

It is suggested that any two of these techniques are practiced for 10 minutes a day, twice per day.

With each of these practices, the techniques are not complex. The key is trying them and sticking through them.  

It is when you’ve practiced them, felt restless like you want to stop, but go back and keep practicing for another 20 minutes that you’ll start to feel the real effects. As we relax, all the tension and anxiety we’ve kept at bay rises up. This makes us feel restless but should be the time to practice more because just beyond that anxiety is relaxation. 

With all relaxation techniques listed here, try to sit comfortably and in a position where you move as little as possible. 


5-4-3-2-1 Relaxation

Sit or lie in a comfortable position, and begin to notice what you can see, hear and feel.


1) Say to yourself gently:

“I can see… *name any object in your field of vision+”, and repeat for 5 different objects. For example:

“I can see a picture”, “I can see a wall”, “I can see a lamp”, “I can see a book”, “I can see a radiator”.

*Please note that if you do this exercise in complete darkness and you can’t see anything, you can use
imaginary pictures of everyday objects – just visualize them in your mind’s eye, ideally choosing neutral
images that don’t have strong emotions associated with them, whether positive or negative+

2) Then say to yourself:

“I can hear… [name any sound you can hear]”, and repeat for 5 different sounds. For example:

“I can hear the ticking of the clock”, “I can hear traffic outside”, “I can hear my breathing”, “I can hear a door creaking”, “I can hear the wind”.

3) Then say to yourself:

“I can feel… [name any feeling or sensation you experience+”, and repeat for 5 different sensations. For
example:

“I can feel tension in my shoulders”, “I can feel the pillow under my head”, “I can feel the tongue in my
mouth”, “I can feel my hair on my neck”, “I can feel my hand on my lap”.

o Repeat the sequence, this time naming only 4 things you can SEE, 4 things you can HEAR, 4 things you
can FEEL (the pictures/sounds/sensations can be the same as last time, or different – it doesn’t matter)

o Repeat, naming 3 things you can SEE, 3 things you can HEAR, 3 things you can FEEL

o Repeat, naming 2 things you can SEE, 2 things you can HEAR, 2 things you can FEEL

o Repeat, naming 1 thing you can SEE, 1 thing you can HEAR, 1 thing you can FEEL

By now, if you are not asleep yet, you should feel more relaxed and with much less “chatter” in your
mind. If needed, you can repeat the procedure more than once.


Please note that this technique can be used for insomnia as well as general relaxation in stressful
situations, e.g. in a waiting room before an interview, during an exam, or before difficult meetings.

Progressive Relaxation 

Since this one is so detailed, I have recorded a version that you can listen to if you prefer.

∙ Lie on your back in bed, close your eyes.  

∙ Feel your feet. Sense their weight. Become aware of the muscles in them, how they feel, whether they’re tensed or relaxed. If you can’t tell whether something is tensed or relaxed, actively tense them, and that’s what you don’t want. Now, will those muscles to relax. Once you feel you’ve relaxed your feet, move up to your calves. 

∙ Feel your calves. Become aware of the muscles in them, how they feel. Now will them to relax.  

∙ Feel your knees. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.  

∙ Feel your upper legs and thighs. Feel their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.  

∙ Feel your abdomen and chest. Sense your breathing. Consciously will them to relax. Deepen your breathing slightly and feel your abdomen and chest sink into the bed.  

∙ Feel your buttocks. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.  

∙ Feel your hands. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.  

∙ Feel your upper arms. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed. 
 

∙ Feel your shoulders. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.  

∙ Feel your neck. Sense its weight. Consciously relax it and feel it sink into the bed.  

∙ Feel your head and skull. Sense its weight. Consciously relax it and feel it sink into the bed.  

∙ Feel your mouth and jaw. Consciously relax them. Pay particular attention to your jaw muscles and unclench them if you need to. Feel your mouth and jaw relax and sink into the bed.  

∙ Feel your eyes. Sense if there is tension in your eyes. Sense if you are forcibly closing your eyelids. Consciously relax your eyelids and feel the tension slide off the eyes.  

∙ Feel your face and cheeks. Consciously relax them and feel the tension slide off into the bed.  

∙ Mentally scan your body. If you find any place that is still tense, then consciously relax that place and let it sink into the bed.

Toe Tensing 

This one may seem like a bit of a contradiction to the previous one, but by alternately tensing and relaxing your toes, you actually draw tension from the rest of the body.  Try it! 

1. Lie on your back, close your eyes.  

2. Sense your toes.  

3. Now pull all 10 toes back toward your face. Count to 10 slowly.  4. Now relax your toes.  

5. Count to 10 slowly.  

6. Now repeat the above cycle 10 times.  

Deep Breathing 

By concentrating on our breathing, deep breathing allows the rest of our body to relax. Deep breathing is a great way to relax the body and get everything into synchrony. Relaxation breathing is an important part of yoga and martial arts for this reason. 

1. Lie on your back.  

2. Slowly relax your body. You can use the progressive relaxation technique we described above.  

3. Begin to inhale slowly through your nose if possible. Fill the lower part of your chest first, then the middle and top part of your chest and lungs. Be sure to do this slowly, over 8–10 seconds.  

4. Hold your breath for a second or two.  

5. Then quietly and easily relax and let the air out.  

6. Wait a few seconds and repeat this cycle.  

7. If you find yourself getting dizzy, then you are overdoing it. Slow down. 

8. You can also imagine yourself in a peaceful situation such as in a warm, gentle ocean. Imagine that you rise on the gentle swells of the water as you inhale and sink down into the waves as you exhale.  

9. You can continue this breathing technique for as long as you like until you fall asleep. 

Relaxed Breathing 

This technique involves timing your breathing, with a certain number of seconds to inhale, a certain number of seconds to exhale. You should start with a count of about 3 seconds to inhale to start, 6 seconds to exhale.  

1. Take a normal calm breath and count the seconds it takes to inhale. Now try doubling this time as you exhale (3 seconds to inhale, 6 to exhale).  

2. Continue this breathing for 15 minutes. 

3. Relax as you practice this.  

4. As you feel more comfortable, the next time you do this you can slow things down a little more (4 secs inhale, 8 secs exhale). Always keep the ratio 1:2. Do not go over 6 seconds on an inhale. 

5. Do not hold your breath in between. If you feel lightheaded, take a break or use a faster rate. 

Guided Imagery 

In this technique, the goal is to visualize yourself in a peaceful setting. 

1. Lie on your back with your eyes closed.  

2. Imagine yourself in a favorite, peaceful place. The place may be on a sunny beach with the ocean breezes caressing you, swinging in a hammock in the mountains, or in your own backyard. Any place that you find peaceful and relaxing is OK.  

3. Imagine you are there. See and feel your surroundings, hear the peaceful sounds, smell the flowers or the barbecue, feel the warmth of the sun, and any other sensations that you find. Relax and enjoy it.  

4. You can return to this place any night you need to. As you use this place more and more you will find it easier to fall asleep as this imagery becomes a sleep conditioner.  

5. Some patients find it useful to visualize something boring. This may be a  particularly boring teacher or lecturer, co-worker, or friend.

Mental Mantra – Numbers 

1. Begin by closing your eyes.  

2. Now repeat the number “One” to yourself in your head. Repeat it slowly and rhythmically to yourself- one…one…one.  

3. Continue this for as long as you can. At some point, you will find your mind start to wander. You may start daydreaming or running through things you have to do. You may go on daydreaming for minutes at a time.

Once you catch yourself,  though, bring yourself back to your number. Now move back to the number.  

4. Begin repeating that number again. This time repeat the number two. Two…two…two…two. 

5. When your mind wanders again, bring yourself back to center and start again with the next number. 

Vipassana Meditation (The Thought Bubble) 

1. Begin by sitting comfortably and closing your eyes.  

2. Focus on feeling your breathing. 

3. Feel the air moving in and out through your nose. 

4. Now imagine a thought in your head, that can be about anything.

5. Imagine that thought leaving your head like a bubble, floating away.

6. Let it float away and just watch it leave, not attaching to it, not thinking about it,  just watching it go. 

7. As the next thought arises, let that thought float away too, away into the world.

8. With each new thought, let it float away. 9. You may find that you’ll get caught up in a thought, thinking about it, or daydreaming. Once you realize it, let go of it, and see it leave you just like every other thought.