Message Boards Message Boards

Physical Practices

Relaxation, artificial and otherwise

Toggle
Relaxation, artificial and otherwise
Answer
1/1/15 9:52 PM

I learned these techniques from Israel Regardie and have found them as invaluable as noting. The techniques are presented in a few short books of his, but they deserve to be distilled further and put out there. As with noting and other meditation techniques, their simplicity belies their power. I recommend trying at least the first one.

Artificial relaxation

You need a partner for this. I'll call them the helper. If there's any tendency to move, jerk, shake, yawn, cry, yell, etc during this procedure allow it to happen. 

  • Lie flat on your back in loose clothes on a yoga mat, carpet, or something similar. Nothing too soft. Place a small pillow under your head, if needed.
  • Let the surface support your weight fully. Become aware of the ways in which you're bracing against the surface or trying to hold yourself up. Surrender the burden of your weight entirely. A few heavy sighs helps. 
  • Lie for a few minutes, allowing the relaxation to deepen, breathing deeply. Observe your body passively but precisely.
  • Now, place a pillow under your feet. Have the helper raise the legs by the heel, one at a time, just a few inches from the surface, and let them drop by gravity alone. Notice the habitual muscular tension trying to hold the leg up or force it down. Repeat a few times for each leg.
  • Have the helper do the same, but this time putting a supporting hand under the knee before dropping the leg. Notice the habitual tension trying to hold the lower leg up or force it down. Repeat a few times for each leg.
  • Similarly have the helper drop both legs at the same time. Repeat a few times. Similarly have the helper drop both legs at the same time with a supporting hand under the knees. Repeat a few times.
  • Put one of your foot flat on the floor with your knee up. Have the helper hold your ankles down so your feet stay against the surface, and keep a supporting hand on top of their knee. Have the helper push your knee gently outward. Notice the habitual muscular tension. Have the helper gently push your knee inward and outward a few times. Repeat for both legs.
  • Now, have the helper wriggle the arm a little, like a rope. With the elbow against the surface, have the helper hold the upper arm in place then lift the forearm and drop it. Notice the habitual muscular tension. Lift the whole arm a few inches, and let it drop. Notice the habitual muscular tension. Repeat a few times for both arms.
  • Have the helper put a hand under the shoulder and lift it slightly, and drop it. The body should drop heavily, and the head should wag freely on the neck. Notice the habitual muscular tension. Repeat for both shoulders. Then, drop both shoulders at the same time. Then, have the helper grasp by the shoulders, lift slightly, and begin to shake gently and gradually more vigorously. The head and body should shake with the shoulders.
  • Have the helper press on the abdominal muscles to either side of the hip bone. Press gently for a few seconds, gradually pressing harder. Notice the habitual muscular tension.
  • Have the helper press gradually on the sides and front of your chest. Notice the elasticity of the chest.
  • Have the helper lift your head a few inches, and then let it drop onto the pillow. Notice the habitual muscular tension. Repeat a few times.
  • Once you've become very relaxed, memorize the feeling. After doing this whole procedure a few times you'll be able to recall the feeling of near-total relaxation and be able to induce it easier.
Rhythmic breathing, meditation, or a nap is pleasurable afterwards. I could hardly think of something more useful to spend 30 minutes on a couple times a week.

Imagining blood/warmth to induce relaxation

No helper required. It's preferable to do this after artificial relaxation.
  • Lie flat on your back in loose clothes on a yoga mat, carpet, or something similar. Nothing too soft. Place a small pillow under your head, if needed. Place a pillow under your knees. Cross your ankles, let your heels rest against the surface, and interlace your fingers loosely and place them on your abdomen.
  • Let the surface support your weight fully. Become aware of the ways in which you're bracing against the surface or trying to hold yourself up. Surrender the burden of your weight entirely. A few heavy sighs helps. 
  • Lie for a few minutes, allowing the relaxation to deepen, breathing deeply. Observe your body passively but precisely.
  • Visualize your brain in your skull as white/grey and feel it with the imagination. As you hold the imagination, try to feel that it becomes pinkish in hue as you think of it, automatically directing an increase in blood to the area. Maintain the visualization for at least a minute. Move on once you feel warmth, tingling, and relaxation in your head.
  • Imagine next that the blood pours downward into your forehead, eyes, and temples. Go through a similar procedure of visualization until you feel the warmth, tingling, and relaxation. 
  • Do the same for your ears, middle/inner ear, your cheeks, and nose.
  • If you become distracted, just return to your visualization. Don't become annoyed or allow mental tension t o arise.
  • Continue into your lips, mouth, gums, tongue, chin, and angles of the jaw.
  • After doing the whole head, including the back of the head, pause and feel the entire head. The rest of your body should have relaxed somewhat along with it.
  • Continue downward into the rest of your body, carefully and patiently. Pay particular attention to the shoulder and shoulder joint.

"Practicing the Presence of God"

No helper required. It's preferable to do one or both of the above first. I haven't done this one as much, but I think it could potentially produce insight via dissolving artificial boundaries. This one I've just cut and pasted as it gets mystical towards the end. I've added bulletpoints and removed a few bits.

  • Consider the obvious fact that the skin all over the body is perforated by millions of minute holes which we call pores. Every organ in the body, being composed of cells of different types and sizes, similarly is perforated by countless intercellular spaces, interstices of minute size. In other words, by a contemplation of this anatomical fact the student will begin to realize that the concept of physical solidity and impermeability is merely a convenient concept - but not necessarily an accurate one.
  • Lie down, then, relaxed, imagine the skin on the cheeks of the face, feeling that the pores in the skin are stretched wide open -- large yawning precipices and lacunae on the face. 
  • Extend this notion then to the skin on the forehead, nose and entire face. Include also, piecemeal, the scalp and the back of the head. Contemplate, in each area, that no longer is the skin impermeable and non-porous,  but that it is composed of more holes than tissue. In fact, the picture of a woman's hairnet (even though these are rarely seen nowadays) will perfectly convey the idea to be grasped.
  • In much the same way, the entire body should be visualized, following the surface of the skin downwards from the head, neck, shoulders and arms, thorax, pelvis and abdomen, thighs, legs and feet. He should consider every part, coming to realize that the membrane which surrounds every organ of the body, holding it together as a limiting membrane, has lost its density and impermeability and is actually a series of holes loosely knit together by a net-like tissue. Reaching the toes and soles of the feet, he should pause temporarily to acquire the full sensation of the stretching of the pores - a completely unmistakable sensation.
  • This sensation, once acquired - and no further work on this exercise should be continued until it is acquired - now let him return to reflection of the head once more. But this time, his imagination will extend interiorly rather than externally. He should try to consider the brain, not as in the preliminary relaxation technique with a view to vascularizing its neural tissue, but in order to arrive at the feeling that it too has become full of holes. The student should attempt to acquire the sensation that the interstices between the brain cells are becoming greater, and that the brain is, in a word, becoming sponge-like. If he can first examine a real sponge, he will have succeeded in realizing what I am attempting to describe by feeling that the substance of the brain is similarly constructed. This may take some little time, but once obtained it can be induced again with the greatest of ease.
  • This sponge feeling should now be applied to every organ of the body, one after the other. Deal with the head area first of all. Feel, in turn, that the brain, the eyes, the nose, the ears, all the viscera of the head, are sponge-like, replacing the solid tissue. Even the bony covering of the head, the skull, when examined under a microscope or with large magnification is seen to be full of holes. Use this fact. Then continue with the neck, imagining that the neck vertebrae of the spine, the neck muscles and flesh, larynx, esophagus and other glands- infact, visualizing that the whole neck has become like a number of sponges, nothing but holes bound together by a membrane. Apply a similar technique to the shoulder and arms. Visualize that a bone, as well as muscles and ligaments and tendons, res-pond to exactly the same image. The thorax with its soft organs of lungs, heart, large blood-vessels, etc. likewise comprise a large sponge. In fact, the lungs and liver, and many another organ, when examined microscopically, do look very much like spongy tissue. The abdomen, pelvis, thigh and legs then disappear save as they appear to the imagination, or are felt, as masses of holes bound into an integrated whole. 
  • It is important that this realization be obtained fully before he continues. It is not very difficult really, and most people can obtain it within a very short period of time. Any student who has persevered with this course of training up to this point should experience no difficulty at all. The physical sensations attending this sponge-realization are distinctive and cannot be mistaken for any other bodily reaction.
  • If the body is thus full of perforations, the student should consider this fact. Since the atmosphere encloses him and surrounds him at all times, the now-absolutely-permeable body offers no impediment whatsoever to the entrance of air from any quarter. In fact, so far from resisting the flow of air through his body, he knows that the atmosphere must literally rush and course through these myriads of holes which he now feels his body to be. As he reclines on the couch, fully relaxed, let him now imagine that the surrounding air pours through his body, pushing downwards from the ceiling. He may combine this with the rhythms of his breathing, as already described earlier. 
  • As he breathes in, let him realize that the air saturates the sponge that he is, pouring into him from above, from head to toe. With the exhalation of breath, the air leaves his porous body, making its exit all the way along the back of his head, the back of his trunk, thighs, and legs. Continue this notion for some several seconds until the feeling of the permeability of the body to the surrounding air grows. Let the student vary the exercise, first by imagining that he breathes in through the pores in the soles of his feet, the air rushing vigorously along the whole course of his body, and exhaling through the crown of his head and vice-versa. Then that the atmosphere rises up from below him, passing out through him in front to rise to the ceiling above. 
  • These are simply a series of imaginative concepts which have the effect of furthering the relaxation of the body and mind begun in earlier months, and at the same time preparing the trained mind to consider new spiritual truths. The spiritual fact to be considered is the primordial relationship existing between air and spirit. In all primitive languages, the word for air is the same as that for spirit and mind. Both are life and the carriers of life. Without air there can be no manifestation of life.
  • Let the student therefore begin to consider psychologically the notion that this air rushing through his body so completely open to its influx, and offering no impediment or barrier - this air is the Divine Spirit. It is the universal life which animates all created things. This all-pervasive Air is the immanent God who, so all the metaphysical systems teach, is an omnipresent, infinite, omnipotent principle. Spirit is everywhere at all times, and there is no part of space which is exempt from its presence. God is all-powerful; we cannot conceive of any competing or opposing force. Nor can we conceive that He should have any limitations of any kind that our minds can conceive of. He is divine wisdom and truth and all our knowledge and learning is but an infinitesimal fragment of the omniscience of the Universal Spirit. He, likewise, is all-love; an all-embracing love that is so fine and broad and intense that those who touch that love in their consciousness, rave of the ineffable ecstasy and bliss that came in their realization. All these qualities belong to God, and these are the characteristics that the student should contemplate as he begins to consider the relationship of Spirit with air - the air that rushes through his body and mind. 
  • By imagining the air to saturate the completely porous and permeable body, we are in reality, arriving at a high consciousness of the ever-presence and power of God. God pervades every minute cell of the body. No atom, no minute particle anywhere in this body can possibly be free of the power and substance and love that God is. All the previous knowledge and practical mystical experience that the student has acquired may now be thrown with the utmost intensity and concentration into this meditation - for such it is - with the complete assurance and knowledge that he has achieved success. He has already gained confidence in the efficacy of his own efforts by having applied himself to the techniques already described and which he has assiduously practiced. 
  • This Practice of the Presence of God is only an extension of earlier work. A true realization of his identity with God's infinite spirit may thus be divined, in such a way that no violence is done either to body or to mind. All parts of man are fulfilled, justified without unnatural denial or negligence, hence the realization obtained of God must be full and complete – a perfect and harmonious identification with divine power and life and love.

RE: Relaxation, artificial and otherwise
Answer
1/2/15 1:25 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Hi Droll,
As you suggested, I (superficially) read the whole of Regardie's book "lazy man's guide to relaxation".
This confuses me. What is the relation between those relaxation exercises and the other Reichian body-therapy approaches? My impression is that this is something completely different.

These methods rather remind me of Jacobson's relaxation method or Autogenic training, both of which I learned and found rather useless. By which I mean: useful for relaxation, but useless regarding any lasting change.

RE: Relaxation, artificial and otherwise
Answer
1/3/15 4:21 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
The quickest answer is that the 'mind' and 'body' are one system. Korzybski coined 'organism-as-a-whole', and then went one step further and coined 'organism-as-a-whole-in-an-environment'. Truly, speaking of the 'mind' or 'body' separately can't be ultimately accurate because they're inseparably one system. Truly, speaking of the 'organism-as-a-whole' can't be ultimately accurate because it's inseparably one system with the environment.

The details, theory, and experiences have been discussed in the Reichian thread. Or, if you like, read Lowen, Feldenkrais, F. Matthias Alexander, Reich, Rolf, Levine, Kurtz, hatha yoga books, Tai'chi books, review the concept of character armor, etc etc. Better: forget the theory for awhile, do the practices regularly and draw your own conclusions.