These are techniques we can practice in order to be capable of giving different responses to situations of violence as well as developing better control and a more intentional relationship with our environment.
Of course the techniques here described can be used to help us sleep, or "relax", getting away from it all, but they have been specifically designed to be able to relax in the middle of daily life, in the middle of tense situations when we want to give a response that is intentional, that opens the future for ourselves and for others and that can build around us a culture of nonviolence.
In this exercise we will study the ways to relax our bodies. But before beginning this basic practice, you need to learn to recognize the most tense areas of your body.
Which areas of your body are tense right now? Pay careful attention to your body and discover those tense areas. Perhaps the back of your neck or your shoulders are tense? Or perhaps the muscles in your chest or your stomach?
To relax these points of permanent tension, you must first begin to observe them. Observe your chest, your stomach, the back of your neck and your shoulders, and your face.
Then, wherever you find the most tension, strongly increase this tension. Hold this tension for a few seconds until the muscles become tired. Then, abruptly release the excess tension. Repeat this process three times. Tighten the tense areas, hold the tension for a little while, and then abruptly release the tension.
You have learned how to relax your most tense muscles by doing something opposite to what you might expect; you have tensed your muscles even more in order to relax them.
Once you master this technique, proceed to mentally feel the external muscles of your body in a symmetrical way. That is, always feel both sides of your body, for example, both eyes, both shoulders, both hands, etc. at the same time. Begin by feeling your head, your scalp, your facial muscles and your jaw. Feel both eyes at the same time. Then attend to both sides of your nose, the corners of your lips and your cheeks. Next, mentally move down both sides of your neck at the same time and focus your attention on both your shoulders. Now, gradually move down your arms, forearms, and hands until each of these areas is completely loosened up and relaxed.
Now, return to your head and repeat the relaxation of your face. But this time when you finish your face, instead of going down your arms, go down the front of your body. Move symmetrically down the front of your body as though you were following two imaginary lines. Move down the front of your neck, your chest, your stomach. Continue until you reach your lower stomach and the bottom of your trunk. Feel the whole front of your body completely relaxed.
Next, return to your head, and go down the back of your body. Start with your scalp, with the top of your head and follow two symmetrical lines down the back of your head and neck through your shoulder blades and out onto your back. Continue to follow the two lines down each side of your back until you reach your lower back and the bottom of your trunk. Continue to move down both legs until you reach the tips of your toes, leaving the whole body very well relaxed.
When you finish and have a command of this exercise, you should experience a good external muscular dis-tension. See Figure 1.
Review Exercise 1, and repeat it until you master the technique. Try to do the relaxation faster each time without losing the quality of your dis-tension.
In order of importance you should first master the relaxation of the facial muscles, the neck muscles, and those of the trunk in general. The relaxation of the arms and legs is secondary. People often believe the reverse, and thus waste a great deal of time working on secondary areas such as their arms or legs. Remember that your head, neck (especially the back of your neck) and trunk in general are the most important areas to relax.
Now let's go on to the internal relaxation. First, relax externally, and then feel your head. Feel your eyes, and try to feel your eyeballs and the muscles that surround both eyes very well. Now feel the inside of both of your eyes at the same time. Experience an internal and symmetrical sensation of both your eyes, and then move your attention toward the inside of your head, relaxing your eyes completely.
Continue to move toward the inside of your head, letting yourself slip toward the inside while relaxing completely. Continue as though you are slowly "falling" down your throat toward your lungs. Symmetrically feel the inside of both lungs and relax them. Then, continue to descend inside your stomach, relaxing all your internal tensions as you go. Keep moving downward, relaxing the inside of your lower abdomen until you reach the bottom of your trunk. Finish with the whole inside of your body perfectly relaxed.
We have not covered the arms and legs at all in this second type of relaxation. You go from the eyes back toward the inside, and move as if falling towards the bottom of your trunk. Practice this exercise several times. When you finish, check to see whether any external muscles are still tense.
All the external muscles should now be perfectly relaxed, and of course, you should also have achieved a good internal relaxation. This will allow you to advance to the next exercises, which are somewhat more complex. See Figure 2.
Practice Exercise 2 again, and try to go at an even, constant pace, not spending more time in one area than in any other. Repeat the exercise and speed up your internal movements without losing the sensation of depth. When you have a command of the exercise above, continue with this exercise.
In this exercise we will work with mental relaxation. Begin in a state of external and internal relaxation, that is, go through the external and internal practices in Exercises 1 and 2. Then, feel your head again, feel your scalp, and below it your skull. Begin to feel your brain inside your scalp.
Feel your brain as if it were "tense." Then, let that tension loosen up and "flow" inwards and down, towards the centre of your head. Concentrate on this and move inward one layer at a time. Continue lowering the tension with a sensation of "falling" as the top of your brain begins to feel very soft and pleasant. Always move down, down towards the centre of your head, down below the centre, lower and lower. Feel a soft, warm, and fluffy sensation.
Repeat this exercise several times until you become proficient at it. See Figure 3.