Fatigue, burnout and depression are a threat for about everyone. And when the principle of alternation is altered, when the brain can no longer bear the intensive rate to which it is subjected, it becomes urgent to pause to avoid problems such as fatigue, anxiety, insomnia or uncontrolled excitement. Relaxation, which empties the mind, a state when no stray thoughts disturb the psyche, is very helpful.
It is only by being in charge of themselves that the modern man or woman is entitled to their development: a healthy mind in a healthy body. Relaxation may contribute to this approach.
The deep relaxation state triggered by relaxation techniques helps to recover energy and to revitalize the nervous system and the entire body. As an individual or a group practice, relaxation is an accessible therapy, preventive or curative.
The first stage is a mental and muscular loss of concentration, obtained through exercises that promote awareness of the body and thoughts. The next stage is a restructuring of the individual.
Various techniques proposed by specialists contribute to the same result: decreased muscle tone (tension of skeletal muscles) through proper posture, and reduction of involuntary muscles, to reduce or even remove stress. All existing methods come from the autogenic training developed by Professor J. H. Schultz (based on Hatha yoga and self-hypnosis). A session may last from 10 minutes to an hour.
The best time is in the morning or after 6pm. Athletes relax just before the sport event.
A quiet room in half darkness, an average temperature;
- Loose clothes, not too hot nor too light;
- No interference (belt, suspenders, shoes, jewelry)
- Sitting position (comfortable chair, neck resting on the chair, arms resting on armrests) or lying down (wedged nipe, body civered by a thin blanket).
Eyes should be closed, you stay still and focus on what you feel. Then the session can start.
Whatever the technique, it starts with a dialogue. You are guided first to be aware of the disruptive factors to which you are subjected. You name and classify them. You then consider the possible adjustments or changes that are needed to neutralize harmful effects. After this preamble, the relaxation phase per say begins.
You focus on your breathing while inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply so as to impart a soothing rhythm to the body which will cause it to relax (duration: 5 minutes).
Without changing position, you contract and relax your muscles one by one (from the legs up to the head) and, upon release, you focus on relaxing the muscle and leaving it to gravity. Sentences like “my feet are heavy, they sink into the ground, they are relaxed…” help to gradually relax all the muscle tension. Blood flows smoothly, you feel an euphoric warmth. The mind can then focus on the mental.
You visualize the your favorite color. Intrusive thoughts gradually disappear. Your mind is calm. You substitute dark and obsessive thoughts with positive images (a space where you have been happy, a project). Although unique to every one, these images should convey happiness or success. Regular practice develop the ability to revitalize everywhere you are, only five minutes of mental break are enough. But this is only possible when one has attained the capability to disconnect from the outside world by effectively emptying the mind.
Whatever the method, it enables the body to relax, while keeping the mind awake. The trick is to focus your attention on a mental image (ex: a quiet place) or body sensations (ex: heat, tension), and to keep emotion at a distance.
Relaxation therapy was created in 1960 by Alfonso Caycedo, a Colombian neuro-psychiatrist of Spanish Basque descent. After using conventional therapies in Spain at the beginning of his practice (insulin comas, electroshock), he considered the need to alter consciousness to treat pathological consciousness in psychotic patients.
He then assumed the possible existence of a harmonious state of consciousness, not pathological, nor merely “ordinary”, called “Sophronia” that it could be possible to reach through phenomenological existential training. That discovery and the subsequent search for that hypothetical third state of consciousness became the objective of relaxation therapy. He proposed a psycho-physical approach based on 3 fundamental principles:
- Bring the body to more reality, to inhabit a healthy body and reach physical and mental harmony.
- Reinforce positive action to develop the positive elements of the past, present and future and better utilize our potential (from potential to ability).
- Develop objective reality, to learn to see things as they are, be more realistic and act with more efficiency.
Caycedo was inspired by Western schools of thought (phenomenology, hypnosis), then by Eastern thought (Indian Yoga, Zen, Tummo) and since 1968 has been merging them in his method: “Dynamic Relaxation” grew from 3 to 12 over time. The practitioner maintains a neutral and steady tone of voice that is conducive to a state of relaxation. Guided by the practitioner’s words, the subject adopts a specific breathing pattern and phases of meditation that promote physical relaxation. Sensations, unpleasant emotions, painful experiences from the past, fears of the future emerge. You are invited to relive those scenes by projecting yourself in them.
Then the practitioner proceeds to deprogram the negative experiences and convert them into positive thinking. Therapeutic suggestion is at the core of Sophronia. The relief of anxiety brought about by relaxation therapy improves asthma, reduces blood pressure, treats noninfectious skin diseases, helps reducing rheumatic disorders or can even be used in the field of obstetrics: Sophronic birth is a legitimate demand.
Schultz autogenic training
Autogenic training was created by Johannes Heinrich Schultz (1884-1970) circa 1930. He was inspired, in particular, by the work of Oscar Vogt on hypnosis, Emile Coue on conscious autosuggestion and Freud whom he met on several occasions.
This method uses the subject’s autonomy. The therapist brings the patient into self-hypnosis, and guides them to daily exercises. During the session, mental focus is enhanced by repetitive formulas. Sitting or lying down, eyes closed, the patient focuses on a limb to feel its heaviness. Responding to the therapist, the patient controls their breathing and heartbeat, then focuses on their solar plexus as a source of heat and on his forehead as a source of coolness, until a an emotional balance occurs. The physiological consequence is that heat and coolness spread in the body, replacing heaviness by lightness.
The main interest of autogenic training is that it is a simple and progressive technique that takes only a few minutes per day. It requires no special effort, and is not based on any specific belief. Only practice and imagination count. In three months of regular work, the technique is considered as acquired. By awakening the active listening of our body, we benefit from its biofeedback. Gradually, we learn to control our involuntary functions, and our perception increases. This sensory information then contributes to optimal decision making:
- We use our energy better
- The accuracy of movement is improved
- We optimize our body image – the relationship to our body
- We improve our physical recovery
A meta-analysis of 60 studies (35 randomized controlled trials) has identified many areas where autogenic training was effective, amongst them hypertension, insomnia and eczema. Several summaries of scientific studies conducted over the last fifty years have also confirmed that autogenic training significantly reduces stress and anxiety, resulting in significant muscle relaxation, improved blood flow, reduced blood pressure and deeper breathing. which can be especially beneficial against many diseases.
The technique is also very effective for pain control, to the point of significantly reducing the need for medication. In sports psychology, it is commonly used to improve athletes focus and performance. Autogenic training can greatly help to improve quality of life in general.
To Milton Hyland Erickson for (1901-1980), an American psychiatrist and psychotherapist, hypnosis is a state of consciousness in which we present an understanding and ideas to a subject to enable them to use this understanding and these ideas within its own repertoire of learning.
The therapist uses suggestion to bring the patient to a drowsy state. The patient’s muscles relax, his breathing becomes regular, he gradually disconnects from the surroundings while remaining in contact with the practitioner. After 10 minutes, the patient is in an hypnosis state. Suggestions are used to bring the patient to a state and feeling of wellness. After thirty minutes, the practitioner brings the patient back to reality in stages and asks him about the sensations experienced during the session.
After four sessions, the subject’s physical and mental condition has significantly improved. This method lets the patient access his unconscious. Past and forgotten conflicts, painful and hidden memories, fantasies, dreams reappear to the surface and the patient can translate them into words until they lose their harmful power.
Read my post about Ericksonian hypnosis.
This therapeutic method is based on the process of visualization in a musical context: harp suggests rivers, fountains, rolling countryside in a while bird songs evoke the summer, trees…
Backed by music, the practitioner evacuates the mental and physical tensions caused by stressing factors (hyperactivity, stress, noise), while finding the harmonic dimension of personality. One thing is for sure: we are living in a period of important discoveries in the field of sound vibrations at the service of health. Ultrasounds, currently used by medicine, is now a prehistoric tool compared to the opportunities offered by certain musical vibrations. The cell vibrates and emits music, inaudible to the ear, but real. Contacting the cell by establishing a musical dialogue to restore it may seem utopian. But it lays the foundation for holistic medicine for which sound vibration, like an homeopathic granule, acts on a harmonic frequency, restoring a gentle flow of vital energies.
Read my post on brain wave therapy.