How can we cultivate a daily relaxation practice?

Q:

How can we cultivate a daily relaxation practice?

A:

I love the teaching that “a little bit often equals a lot”. Most people give up their practice that they could do. They feel like "well, if I don't make it to my mat or my cushion for 20 minutes or an hour or two hours then I blew it. Why bother?"

We forget that it's way more important to practice for one minute several times a day than it is to practice for one hour one time a week or two hours of practice every couple of days.

I wake up and I practice early, whether it is for 5 minutes or 10 minutes or an hour. If you remember to do it first thing, whether its three breaths or three minutes of breathing or 30 minutes of yoga and breathing, and then continue to practice all day long, whether that means when your phone rings or when your alarm that you set goes off or before meal.

These three breaths of landing, arriving, and relaxing is the best way I know how to remember to come back to myself.

I also use a lot of progressive relaxation. What that means is squeezing your body and releasing.

You can do it with the upper body or with your whole body. On an inhale, you gently make a fist and you squeeze all the muscles of your arms and hike your shoulders up, and on the exhale, you totally drop it.

Then you can do with your legs too. On your inhale, just squeeze the muscles of your legs and your arms tight towards the bones and as you exhale and drop it, feel your body and support.

And, one more time, you just squeeze everything everywhere on an inhale, and exhale as you let go of everything. Just feel the ground underneath you holding you up.

Letting go of tension is also a really quick way to return to your breath, to remember yourself and to releasing armor.

Do that before a meal, do that when you wake up, and before you go to bed, wether it's ten times or three times.

The little bits of practice three times a day, ten times a day, if you can't make it to your mat, they go so far and they really build up over time.

Learn more in Jillian Pranksy's episode of The Yogapedia Podcast.

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Written by Jillian Pransky
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Jillian Pransky, E-RYT 500, is the author of Deep Listening, an international presenter, mindfulness teacher, and certified yoga therapist. She created and leads Yoga Journal's Restorative Yoga 101 and Everyday Restorative and Yoga Anytime's Yoga For Anxiety show.

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