by Swami Kriyananda
from Meditation for Starters
The best way to relax the body is to tense it first, and thereby to equalize the flow of tension all over the body. Then, with relaxation, you will find tensions being released that you didn’t even know existed.
A Relaxation Technique for the Body
Inhale, tense the whole body, then throw the breath out and relax. Doing this three to six times will help rid the body of unconscious tensions. Now, consciously relax the various body parts, starting with your feet and working your way gradually to the head and brain. It may help you to visualize space or light filling each area as you relax it. Physical relaxation is the first step necessary for deep meditation.
Regular Breathing to Relax the Mind
The breath is intimately linked with the mind. By controlling and relaxing the breath, we influence the mind to become calm. Inhale slowly counting one to twelve, hold your breath for the same number of counts, then exhale for the same count. This is one round of “regular breathing.” Do six to nine rounds. You may either lengthen or shorten the number of counts according to what is comfortable, but keep the inhalation, retention and exhalation equal.
Releasing Emotional Tension
This practice can also help us to achieve release from mental and emotional pain. The stress that accompanies such pain usually produces physical tension. By relaxing the body, as outlined above, then extending the thought of physical relaxation to the release of tension in the mind and in the emotions, we can achieve mental and emotional tranquility with the release of tension in the body.
Whenever you feel anxious or fearful about anything, or distressed over the way someone has treated you, or upset for any reason, inhale and tense the body. Bring your emotions to a focus in the body with that act of tension. Hold the tension briefly, vibrating your emotions along with the body. Throw the breath out, and, keeping the breath exhaled as long as you can do so comfortably, enjoy the feeling of inner peace. Remain for a time without thought. When the breath returns, or when thoughts once again bestir themselves in your mind, fill your brain with some happy memory that will provide an antidote to your emotions. Concentrate for several minutes on the happiness of that memory.
Throughout this process, look upward, and mentally offer yourself, like a kite, into the winds of inner freedom. Let them sweep you into the skies of superconsciousness.