The importance of relaxation
As I travel through life there are certain beliefs I have abandoned over the years, some I continue to test and remain unsure of and still others that I have become more and more convinced about. One of the latter of these beliefs is that being able to properly and naturally relax is the essence of good health and wellbeing as well as essential for optimising most, or possibly all, of the functions that our human bodies perform. We are bombarded these days with all the ways that stress negatively affects our wellbeing and our health and can lead to many serious illnesses so there is a general consensus that stress is bad but perhaps not yet a good understanding of what it really means to be fully relaxed.
It could be said that there are different types of relaxation and some activities that may be thought of as relaxing, whilst quite likely providing a positive experience, do not really produce the kind of deep natural relaxation that we can feel all the way to the very core of ourselves. When we are truly relaxed the dial for our natural fight or flight response can be thought of as being turned down to standby mode and in this state our body is able to heal and get on with its daily processes, such as digestion, in an optimum fashion.
If you pause for a moment I am sure you could identify at least one area of your body that is prone to feeling stressed, tense or even painful. Common areas are the shoulders and neck, the jaw and around the stomach but we may experience tension anywhere in our bodies. There are many ways that we can, with attention and practice, become aware of a sort of ‘red light’ signal as our body’s communication that we are experiencing tension and therefore not fully relaxed. These might include physical symptoms, such as discomfort and pain, or a racing mind that won’t switch off and allow us to concentrate on our work or fall asleep at night. We might experience digestive upsets, find we can’t sit still or feel intolerant of things that normally don’t bother us. There are many, many ways that we might experience tension within ourselves and learning our own particular alert signals can be a very helpful first step.
What is relaxing?
What people experience as relaxing can vary hugely. For example, some may find riding a horse or sailing very relaxing but for others these might be terrifying experiences. Other activities might be considered relaxing but again may not lead to the deep natural level of relaxation that our body needs in order to repair and function well. Watching television is a good example of this, indeed one might question whether this is ever truly a relaxing experience or whether it just helps us to ‘zone out’ or ‘switch off’ in a way that we have come to think of as relaxation?
More and more these days we seem to find ourselves and others talking of chronic tiredness, of ‘doing too much’ and rarely switching off properly until we collapse into bed at night. Take a moment to pause reading and close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and notice what happens… There is no right or wrong response but you may notice your shoulders drop a little, your body becoming heavier or sleepiness. There can be great benefit in taking brief moments like this through your day to listen to your body’s communication.
Tired or relaxed?
This leads us to another important distinction, that of being tired or relaxed. Many of us confuse the two and will instantly feel tired once we start to relax. This could be through a lack of good quality sleep but it might also be, in part, because you are unaccustomed to being in a relaxed state whilst being awake and active.
So what can be done about this?
There may be a number of things that could be helpful to each individuals. It may be that you are doing too much, not sleeping well or currently experiencing a stressful time in your life. These situations and habits can take time to sort out but by far the most effective thing I have found to help us naturally relax is Reiki.
Reiki is “the name given to a particular natural healing vibration that is of great benefit to humans” (Honey, 2014). It works in three key ways. Firstly, it helps our bodies and their surrounding energy field, (sometimes called the aura), to repair and rebalance from the daily wear and tear of life. Here I am not talking about major life events but the stress or tension we might experience simply by living on the planet and over which we may have little or no control. This might include things as simple as the weather conditions or hours of daylight. Reiki also helps us, fundamentally, to relax at that deep inner level. If you are interested in a more in depth explanation about how Reiki works I would highly recommend taking a look at “Understanding Reiki: From self-care to energy medicine” by Chyna Honey.
To come back to relaxation, as an energy healer, clinical psychologist and teacher of Reiki and meditation people have often talked with me about their struggles relaxing. They describe trying to meditate and not being able to sit still or get their mind to focus or they come away from a massage with muscles that still feel tight and sore. Many things that we are taught are ‘good for us’ become harder to do when we most need them. Reiki can be administered on oneself or received from a practitioner even at times when we feel too sore to be touched or too mentally stimulated or exhausted to concentrate on something like meditation.
Looking after yourself
Reiki is, at its heart, a self-care practice. Of course it can be a most enjoyable experience to visit a Reiki practitioner and spend an hour on their couch perhaps listening to some soft music and not needing to think or do anything. However, for many reasons, this might not always be practical. If you or a loved one have an accident and are waiting in the emergency room, if you wake in the night following a bad dream or after eating something that disagreed with you, if you are waiting in a stuffy room at your GP’s office or prior to a challenging job interview… these are all situations, to name but a few, when you might, understandably, feel quite stressed and unable to practice many things that might help you relax. You could though, quite easily, put your hands into a cupped position and rest them against your knees or your belly and allow the relaxing Reiki energy to begin flowing into your body.
Time and again clients have told me that they feel hugely calmer after a Reiki session. Others might begin by saying they don’t feel that stressed and then can’t believe how much more relaxed they feel by the end. Many report having the best night’s sleep they can remember after a first experience of Reiki.
The wonderful thing about this simple but very effective healing tool is that you don’t need to take my word for it. Book yourself a session with a local Reiki practitioner and see the effects for yourself. With regular use Reiki can help your body learn what it means to be relaxed, most of the time, even whilst being awake and functioning, not just when you collapse in front of the television or into your bed at night.
And if you discover that you like how Reiki makes you feel, why not sign up to a course to learn it so that you can then use this wonderful relaxing energy for yourself throughout every day. Reiki is so wonderfully flexible that you can do it whilst walking or reading or holding a conversation. Ever been bored or stressed in a meeting? Perfect time to do Reiki!
I like to say to my Reiki students that if they have a spare hand they could be doing some Reiki. If I didn’t need two hands to type I’d be doing some Reiki now!
Dr. Karen Janes is owner of Natural Healing Energy with offices in Salisbury and Shaftesbury in the UK. She is many remarkable things but of particular note, she is a Reiki Master Teacher, healer, student and writer. She is passionate about teaching Reiki and in helping people heal and overcome obstacles and dissatisfactions in their lives. You can learn about Karen, her Reiki courses and Natural Healing Energy at www.naturalenergyhealing.com