Guided Relaxation

Season One: Episode Five

Many of us are not getting enough sleep or our sleep patterns have become disrupted. In these uncertain times of a global pandemic we are dealing with more stress and anxiety and may find it a struggle to simply relax. This episode’s guided relaxation could be one way for you find rest and potentially improve the quality of your sleep. It’s worth a try and once you learn the technique it’s something you can do on your own without any guidance.


Show Notes

Practice the art of generosity and support me at ko-fi.com/fullywoven

Fully Woven’s Instagram is @fullywoven

The book I mentioned is Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker.


Transcript

Hello and welcome to Crafted Connections, a fortnightly podcast by Fully Woven. Here you will find a collection of embodied contemplative activities to calm the nervous system and quiet the mind. Activities such as guided meditations, journal writing, creative arts, and gentle mindful movement. You’ll also find a sprinkling of conversations about creativity and contemplation with some guests to the podcast.

My name is Monique and I trust and practice these activities to help me live peacefully with chronic disabilities. Their introspective nature is subtle yet profoundly effective at amplifying wisdom. In practicing them with you, I seek to create a space to ease your suffering and where perhaps you may feel less disconnected.

I have spent decades in devotion to various contemplative arts and not only are they of personal interest but they are also my professional vocation. Gathered under the banner of Fully Woven, I offer individual and group counselling, somatic enquiry sessions, creative workshops, guided meditations, and non-residential retreats. All my offerings are gifted for free as mutual aid and if you are inclined to contribute a gift of generosity – in other words, Dāna – it will be accepted and go towards the sustainability of our community. Thank you.

My website is at fully woven dot com. For the socials, you can find me on Instagram with the username Fully Woven. And to support Fully Woven’s free offerings please visit ko-fi dot com. All these links will be shared in the show notes.

Today I’m going to share a guided relaxation with you. We’re going to employ our imagination and breath as we tense and release muscles. This is a fairly simple practice and I’m always amused by how effective just moving sequentially thru the body brings in a softness and deep relaxation. We need not get complex with our contemplative practices and in my experience it’s the more simple and pared-down ones that are the most reliable.

This is something that you can do when sleep is a challenge because of stress or anxiety. In your mind’s eye you can move thru your body and invite in softness to those areas holding tension. So instead of counting sheep how about counting points of relaxation?

You may fall asleep during today’s practice and if you do then good! Mission accomplished. 

Many of us are not getting enough sleep and as Matthew Walker stated in his book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, he says, “sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day”. He goes on to tell us “the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. The leading causes of death and disease in developed nations—diseases that are crippling health-care systems, such as heart disease, obesity, dementia, diabetes, and cancer—all have recognized causal links to a lack of sleep.” So I kind of hope you fall asleep during this podcast.

Let’s give this guided relaxation a try, okay? Come back and listen to this episode as often as you need because having a robust relaxation practice will support your sleep hygiene and contribute to many health benefits. 

Here’s a good spot to pause and set yourself up for the practice. Have on hand whatever will support you. Turn off your phone’s ringer and if there are other people in your household let them know you’re taking some quiet time to relax and to not disturb you. Maybe dim the lights? Or draw the curtains? You get the idea. Settle into your space.

Before I share the prompts take a few moments for some deep breaths. Maybe close your eyes or soften your gaze. Notice all the places where your body feels supported. And with each exhale sink deeper into that support. 

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On the inhale bring in a spaciousness and imagine slowly filling up like a balloon. If it feels safe to do, then begin to breath in and out through your nose. Bring your lips to rest together with the tip of your tongue placed gently behind your upper teeth. Release any holding in your jaw. And in your brow too. Allow your inhale and exhale to move slowly in and out thru your nostrils.  

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Let’s start with a scan through the body as a whole. Allow your mind’s eye to travel through your limbs, your trunk, and head. Do this with a heart of kindness and notice what is presenting today.

Notice areas of tightness or soreness. 

Notice areas of strength and capacity.

Notice areas with sensation and also those areas without sensation. 

Can you do this without judgement? Could you be a witness without attaching a story?

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Now bring your awareness to your feet. Point and flex a few times. 

Can you spread your toes?

Rotate your ankles in a few circles. Get curious about matching the speed of your movement to the pace of your breath.

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Bring the movement to stillness and then take the rotation in the opposite direction. Be aware of the movement. In your mind’s eye see your ankle joint as it moves through your range of motion.

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And bring your feet to stillness. 

On your next inhale flex your feet and spread your toes. Engage all the muscles and tendons in your feet. And with your exhale release the engagement and allow your feet to come to rest in a comfortable neutral position.

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Bring your awareness to your legs. Left and right. Both legs. Let your awareness rest on your calves. Gently engage your calf muscles and on your next exhale release and soften the muscles. Go gently here and resist the urge to clench your calf muscles as you may stimulate a cramp. Continue breathing gently in and out thru your nostrils as you gently engage the muscles. Inhale and release on the exhale.

If your calves are particularly tight today than don’t even engage them. Let them be and instead imagine your inhale is bringing in some space and your exhale is releasing the tightness. If you don’t have access to movement in your legs and imagining the softening of your leg muscles is supportive then please go with that imagery or employ your own visuals. However it is for you, soften soften soften. Inhale and exhale softness.

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On your next inhale engage all the muscles of your legs from your hips and buttocks down to your toes. Can you hold that engagement thru a cycle of three breaths? Check it out. 

One.

Two.

Three.

And on the next exhale release and sink into the support beneath you. 

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Bring your awareness to your hands. Left and right. Both hands. With your inhale spread your fingers wide and when your exhale draw them into a fist. As you move through the cycles of your breath begin to also engage the muscles in your arms. Imagine them filling up with air from shoulder to fingertip with your inhale. Fingers spreading wide and deflating with your exhale as the fingers curl into a fist, arms come to a neutral spot. Inhale fill up, engage your muscles, spread your fingers. And on the exhale soften and release. 

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On the next inhale, your arms and hands fully engage, pause and hold. Can you hold this engagement for a cycle of three breaths?

One.

Two.

And release on the next exhale. Allow your arms to come to rest.

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Now allow your awareness to rest on your belly, rib cage and shoulders. Many of us carry a lot of tension and anxiety in this area of our physical bodies. Do you? I find the most loving way to be in conversation with this area of my body is with my breath. I allow my inhales to fill the spaces and gently explore any holding. I ask my exhales to carry things away, to soothe the areas of concern. You may find this perspective helpful.

So with this curious compassionate intention begin to travel with your inhale. Notice where it goes. What parts of your body respond to your inhale? Where is your inhale received?

And as you travel with your exhale can you notice where it travels from? What parts of your body release the exhale?

Allow your belly to soften and invite your inhale to bring in a rise and fall there.

Can you sense the movement of your ribcage as it moves with your lungs? How about your sternum? Can you imagine your heart beating? Maybe you can even hear your heartbeat?

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For your next breath inhale deeply and then with pursed lips like you’re drinking from a straw exhale slowly.

Do this three more times.

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We’re almost at the end of this guided relaxation but before we finish lets scrunch up our faces. No one’s watching. Go ahead and make any old tightly held face that you want. Squeeze your eyes together, crunch up your nose, and your lips, even your cheeks. Maybe you feel some tightness in your scalp. 

And on your exhale open your mouth and eyes wide and exhale with whatever noise comes out from a sigh to a roar. Let it out. 

And again, scrunch up your face. Hold the scrunch and continue to breathe. Hold the scrunch not your breath.

Hold.

Hold.

Exhale with wide mouth and eyes.

And allow yourself to come to a place of rest. Release guiding your breath. Soften into the support beneath you. Then once again, allow your mind’s eye to wander through your physical body and notice whatever is presenting. Just noticing here. Not making any judgements. Not attaching any stories. 

What do you notice?

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And this brings us to the end of our contemplative practice for today. If you want, please stay exactly as you are now, turn off your device and drift away.

Or bring yourself into a new posture and let’s close our practice together.

Draw your palms together and bow your head towards your heart. Extend an acknowledgement of gratitude towards yourself for taking time out of your day to tend to your own needs. To plant some seeds of relaxation. May your sleep, when it comes, be deep and restorative.

Thank you for listening. Take good care and do something kind for yourself today. And until next time, peace dear one.