Tag Archives: imagery

Julie Lusk practicing Yoga

Are Relaxation Techniques Part of Yoga?

Can something as mysterious as Yoga include guided relaxation and imagery?

Excerpted from Yoga Meditations by Julie Lusk

Julie Lusk practicing Yoga

Julie Lusk stumped.

Mayo Clinic’s “Housecall” has discussed the benefits of Yoga. Reading their article reminded me of Julie Lusk, one of our authors who writes about relaxation techniques and yoga.  She is a Yoga Master and teacher in the Cincinnati area. Julie can be found at Wholesome Resources when she isn’t traveling, speaking, and teaching. In an excerpt from her book Yoga Meditations she writes about using Shavasana, a yoga pose, to enhance relaxation and meditation.

Guided Relaxation: Still Yoga.

Yoga is the settling of the mind into stillness.
Our essential nature is usually overshadowed by mental activity.
The five types of mental activity are understanding, misunderstanding, imagination, sleep, and memory.
They may or may not cause suffering.

Yoga Sutra 1.2, 1.4-6

Stillness. What a treasure in a world that moves at lightning fast speed. Thankfully, there is an ongoing place in each of us that is an unending reservoir of inner strength and stillness. The purpose of yoga and practices like it is to uncover this powerful core and to use it as a solid platform from which to encounter the world and experience life.

Settling mental activity by actively becoming relaxed and centered is an easy starting point for discovering inner peace; it is also the foundation for most mind-body practices. It actively increases our capacity to calm the mind, soothe the emotions, and open the heart.

Yoga pose

Shavasana – Photo used with permission of Julie Lusk

Shavasana (sha-VAH-sah-nah) – the proper supine position for relaxation and guided imagery. The optimal position for guided relaxation and imagery is called Shavasana (sponge or corpse pose) in yoga. Shavasana is done lying down on a firm, flat surface, such as a carpeted floor or mat. A sofa or bed can be used; however, you risk falling asleep if it is too comfortable.

Here are the specifics:

Lie down on a carpeted floor or mat. Feel free to cover yourself with a blanket for warmth.
Start with a nice big stretch. Next, take in a deep breath and sigh it out through an open mouth.
Close your eyes or keep them barely open. An eye pillow or folded washcloth placed over the eyes helps the brain and body relax further.

Place your legs straight out with your heels twelve to twenty-four inches apart. Find a good distance for your feet so that your hips and back can relax. If your back is uncomfortable, bend your knees and lean them against each other with your feet placed on the floor below them. Start by placing your feet wider than your hips, and notice if it feels comfortable and stable. If not, adjust the placement of your feet and knees. An alternative is to place a sturdy pillow or bolster under your knees. Take the time you need to find the optimal position for your comfort.

Lift your hips up slightly and place them back down so they fall supported and your weight is evenly distributed.

Draw your shoulders downward by gently lowering them toward your ears. Snuggle and tuck them in so they rest comfortably beneath you.

Stretch your arms out and away from your sides in a position of ease. Place your palms face up and notice how this feels to you. If you prefer, turn your palms down or place them on your body.

It is important to preserve the natural arch at the back of your neck. To do so, rest the back of your head on the floor and make sure that neither your forehead nor chin is higher than the other. You may use a small pillow under your head, or roll up a small towel and place it under your neck.

Let your awareness roam around your body to become aware of any area that may be uncomfortable and take the time needed to adjust your clothing and your posture so you are totally at ease.

Yoga outside

Shavasna

Now you, or your clients, are in the perfect position to enjoy meditation or guided imagery. Find a CD with images you and your clients will find soothing, beginning with shorter scripts (5 to 8 minutes) and then graduate to longer ones when you have mastered relaxing for 5 minutes or so. You will find it gets easier each time the routine is practiced.

Remember that your clients are learning what might be a brand new way of using their muscles. Just as it takes time to learn to be a great shot on the basketball court or to be able to play perfect arpeggios on the piano, it takes time and practice to become expert at relaxation and yoga techniques. Everybody take a deep breath and begin to explore a new way to relax.

About Julie.

Julie Lusk author and yoga master

Author and Yoga Master Julie Lusk

Go here for a selection of relaxation and guided imagery CD’s.

How To Make Guided Meditation Work for Your Groups

By Julie Lusk

Many group leaders are aware of the benefits of guided meditations but have had little experience in the field. Here are some tips to help you use guided meditations effectively.

Guided meditation group

Working with guided meditations

Everyone is different, so each person will experience guided imagery uniquely. These individual differences should be encouraged. During a guided meditation, some people will imagine vivid scenes, colors, images, or sounds while others will focus on what they are feeling, or experience it as a concept. This is why a combination of sights, sounds, and feelings are often incorporated into meditations. With practice, it is possible to expand your participants’ range of awareness.

By careful selection of images you can help deepen their experience and cultivate their awareness in new areas that can enrich their lives. For instance, a person who is most comfortable in the visual area can be encouraged to stretch his or her awareness and increase his or her sensitivity to feelings and sounds.guided meditation couple

Working with guided imagery is powerful and it is up to you to use it responsibly and ethically. Leaders with little or no training in guided imagery can use these scripts with emotionally healthy people. Be careful, however, when presenting themes and techniques that are unfamiliar to you. Since people respond in a variety of ways to visualization, avoid generalizing about the benefits of any given script.

If your groups are composed of people who are emotionally ill or especially fragile, you should seek out special training or professional guidance before introducing them to visualizations.

Preparing the group or individual

Physical relaxation reduces anxiety, activates the mind-body connection, and enhances the ability to focus on mental images. Some type of physical relaxation sequence should be used prior to every guided meditation. Relaxation woman eyes open blowing out

Breathing properly is essential for complete and total relaxation. Unfortunately, very few people take full breaths, especially when under stress. When a person consciously uses deep breathing correctly, stress is reduced and the mind can remain calm and stable. It is important that people focus on their breathing, with full deep breaths through the nose.

Before beginning any guided meditation, briefly describe the images you will use and ask if they make anyone feel uncomfortable. People who are afraid of water may find images of ocean waves to be frightening rather than calming. Be prepared with an alternate image. Let participants know that if they become uncomfortable, they may, at any time, open their eyes and tune out or change the visualization.

As you read a script, people will follow you for a while and then drift off into their own imaginations. They will usually tune you back in later on. If they know this in advance, they won’t feel as if they are failing by being inattentive. So tell them this is normal and notice when it happens.

Choosing the right atmosphere

Select a room that has comfortable chairs for sitting or a carpeted floor for lying down. Close the door and shut the windows to block out distracting noise. If possible, dim the lights to create a relaxing environment. Low lights enhance the ability to relax by blocking out visual distractions. If the room lights cannot be controlled to your satisfaction, bring along a lamp or night lights. Adjust the thermostat so that the room temperature is warm and comfortable. If the room is too cool, it will be hard to relax and remain focused. Suggest that people wear a sweater or jacket if they think they may get cold.guided meditation stretching out

If distractions occur—a noisy air conditioner, traffic, loud conversations—try raising your voice, using shorter phrases and fewer pauses, or incorporating the sounds into the guided meditation. For example, you might say, “Notice how the humming sounds of the air conditioner relax you more and more.” Or, “If your mind begins to drift, gently bring it back to the sound of my voice.”

Using your voice

Speak in a calm comforting, and steady manner. Let your voice flow. Your voice should be smooth and somewhat monotonous. But don’t whisper. Start with your voice at a volume that can be easily heard. As the guided meditation progresses and as the participants’ awareness increases, you may begin speaking more softly. As a person relaxes, hearing acuity can increase. Bring your voice up when suggesting tension and bring it down when suggesting relaxation. Near the end of the guided meditation, return to using an easily heard volume. This will help participants come back feeling alert and refreshed.

You may tell participants to use a hand signal if they cannot hear you. Advise people with hearing impairments to sit close to you or you can move closer to them.

If you are having difficulty reading the meditation scripts effectively, there are many pre-recorded scripts available. Click here to see Whole Person’s cd’s.  The Daydreams, Wilderness Daydreams and Mini-Meditations are particularly useful.

Pacing yourself

Read the guided meditations slowly, but not so slowly that you lose people. Begin at a conversational pace and slow down as the relaxation progresses. It’s easy to go too fast, so take your time. Don’t rush.

The ellipses (…) used in my books indicate a brief pause. Many other authors use this technique. Spaces between paragraphs suggest often suggest a longer pause.

Be sure to understand the format used by the author. For example, in 30 Scripts the reader’s notes and script divisions are printed in italics and should not be read out loud.

Give participants time to follow your instructions. If you suggest that they wiggle their toes, watch them do so, then wait for them to stop wiggling their toes before going on. When participants are relaxed and engaged in the imagery process, they have tapped into their subconscious (slow, rich, imagery) mind – and they shouldn’t be hurried.

When you’re leading the meditation, stay in your conscious (alert and efficient) mind. Pay careful attention to all participants. You may have to repeat an instruction if you see that people are not following you.

To help you with your volume and tone, pace and timing, listen to a recording of yourself leading guided meditations.Guided meditation listen to yourself

As you reach the end of a meditation, always help participants make the transition back to the present. Tell them to visualize their surroundings, to stretch, and to breathe deeply. Repeat these instructions until everyone is alert.

Using music

Using music to enhance relaxation is not a new idea. History is full of examples of medicine men and women, philosophers, priests, scientists, and musicians who used music to heal. In fact, music seems to be an avenue of communication for some people where no other avenues appear to exist.

Guided Meditation Julie Lusk playing recorder

Julie Lusk playing the recorder to a Guided Meditation Group – Photo used with permission of Julie Lusk

Your music should be cued up and ready to go at the right volume before you start your meditation. Nothing ruins the atmosphere more quickly than the leader having to fool around trying to get the music going.

Click here for Julie Lusk’s bio.

Click here to go to Julie’s website.

Click here for see all of Whole Person Associates’ guided meditation resources. 

 

 

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation Techniques

 

There are several kinds of relaxation techniques that will help return elevated stress levels for you and your clients to an acceptable level. These techniques recognize the mind/body connection, understanding that one cannot be separated from another.

Types of Relaxation Techniques

Breathing is the easiest relaxation technique. Sustained deep breathing will most often can counter the effects of a crisis and the effects of the stress response. Feel good relaxation technique: stretching lion

Stretching is a natural. Have the participant concentrate on the place where he or she feels the most tension.

Systematic progressive relaxation involves the intentional tightening and release of the muscles in the body. Each muscle group is attended to individually. Folks will become more aware of where they feel their stress and will eventually be able to address it more easily.

Passive progressive relaxation systematically attends to tension in the various muscle groups of the body. It uses mental images to visualize the draining away of tension from the muscles. It takes some practice before deep relaxation is achieved.Meditation: a frog using meditation as a relaxation technique

Autogenic relaxation combines deep breathing with images of draining or melting away stress as opposed to tightening and relaxing muscles. It suggests control and mastery of stress and is a good technique for someone who is feeling powerless.

Meditation is somewhat like day dreaming with a purpose. The participant clears his or her mind and then concentrates on a single mental focus.

Guided imagery and visualization takes advantage of the marvelous capacity of the mind to imagine and create sensory images. Participants may be taken to the sea, to the mountains, for a gentle canoe trip. Be careful to choose images that won’t increase the client’s anxiety. Tell the participants that they may open their eyes and come back to reality if the images are uncomfortable.Yoga is an ancient relaxation technique

Yoga is an ancient system of meditations and exercises.

Begin your relaxation session with a simple breathing exercise. The one below is taken from 30 Scripts for Relaxation Imagery and & Inner Healing, Volume 1, Second Edition, by Julie Lusk. 30 Scripts Vol 2 Edition 2: full of relaxation techniques 30 Scripts Vol 1 Second Edition: Relaxation Techniques

Breathing for Relaxation and Health

By Julie Lusk

Time: 10 minutes

Effective relaxation requires proper breathing. In this script, participants concentrate on their breathing by focusing on what their bodies feel like as they take in deep breaths, hold them briefly, and slowly exhale.Man in sun flower field using the warmth of the sun as a relaxation technique

Note: The following information will help your participants understand the importance of slow, deep, rhythmic breathing. You may wish to present it as an introduction before using this script.

Breathe in and out through the nose, not the mouth, unless directed otherwise. The nose filters out pollutants and it moistens and warms the air.

Breathing should be natural, smooth, easy, slow, quiet and complete. Exhaling fully and deeply is the first step to better breathing. It stimulates the functioning of the brain cells and rids the system of stale air. Exhaling helps activate the relaxation response via the parasympathetic nervous system and it lowers the heart rate. Exhaling fully creates ample room for the inhalation. More importantly, taking time for fully inhaling and exhaling slows the breathing rate down. Slowing the breathing rate down causes the brain to get more oxygen. This results in heightened awareness, increased alertness, and calmness. It diffuses anxiety and nervousness.Breathe: the most simple relaxation technique

Oxygenation of the body is essential to physical health and well-being. Breathing abdominally rather than chest breathing, results in a greater transfer of oxygen into the blood for better delivery of nutrients to the tissues. Cells utilize oxygen to create energy. Oxygen is necessary for the development of all organs in the body. Red blood cells are completely renewed every 120 days. The most essential element for accomplishing this reconstruction is not food, but oxygen.

Shallow and irregular breathing can result in the accumulation of bodily wastes and toxins and inadequate functioning of all body organs and tissues. It is also an indicator of stress. Breathing that is slow, smooth, and deep helps alleviate these issues and leads to a clear and alert mind. It also improves the flow of lymph which can improve the immunity system.

Script

Close your eyes…and bring your attention to your breathing…It’s time to begin following the air as it comes in…and as it goes out while breathing through your nose.
Continue feeling your breath each time it comes in…and as it goes out…If your mind begins to wander, just bring it back to feeling and sensing your breath.
Notice if you can feel movement in your belly…your ribs…and your collar-bone while breathing naturally. Take your time.

Pause.

During the next several cycles of breathing, empty your lungs more than usual each time you breathe out. Let all the air out, compressing your stomach to squeeze out all the stale air and carbon dioxide…Letting it all empty out.
Each time you breathe in, take in a nice, full, deep breath and let the air go all the way to the bottom of your lungs. Feel your stomach rise, your chest expand, and the collar-bone area fill.

As you breathe in, your diaphragm expands and massages all the internal organs in the abdominal area…this helps digestion.

As you breathe out, relax…Allowing any tension or knots in your belly to naturally untie…To let go.

Breathing in…Fully and completely.

Breathing out…Letting it all go…relaxing more and more…Breathing heals you…calms you…it’s soothing.

When breathing in fully and completely. Oxygen is entering your blood stream, and nourishes all your organs and cells. It protects you.

Breathing out releases metabolic waste and toxins. Your breath is cleansing you…healing you.Woman breathing out relaxation technique

Let’s use the breath in another way and take advantage of the mind-body connection.

Leaders note: Use one or more of the following, depending on the group’s needs or time available. Give participants enough time to experience this.

If you wish, imagine exhaling confusion…and inhaling clarity.
Imagine exhaling darkness…and inhaling light.

Imagine exhaling fear…and inhaling love.

Exhaling pain…and inhaling relief.

Exhaling anxiety…and inhaling peace.

Exhaling selfishness…and inhaling generosity.

Exhaling guilt…and inhaling forgiveness.Woman using the warmth of the sun as a relaxation technique

You may continue on with a guided meditation. If you choose to end here, repeat the following until everyone is alert.

Stretch and open your eyes, feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, alert, and fully alive.

Click here for a printable version.

Sun Meditation for Healing and Relaxation

By Judy Fulop and Julie Lusk

Time: 10 minutes

In this script, participants experience the healing power and energy of the sun as they imagine it warming and relaxing them.

Script

Please close your eyes and take some time to go within yourself to settle your body, mind, and heart. Feel free to use whatever method works best for you. For example, it may be focusing on your breath, meditating, stretching your body mindfully, or using a sound, word, image, or a phrase as a mantra to become centered…Take your time…allowing yourself to become more and more at ease with yourself.

Pause

Allow yourself to become as relaxed and comfortable as you can…Let your body feel supported by the ground underneath you.

Slowly begin to see or feel yourself lying in a grassy meadow with the sun shining it’s golden rays gently upon you…Let yourself soak in these warm rays …taking in the healing power and life giving energy of the sunshine.

This magnificent ball of light has been a sustaining source of energy for millions of years and will be an energy source for millions of years to come…This ancient sun is the same sun which shined down upon the dinosaurs…upon the Egyptians while they built the pyramids…and it now shines upon the earth and all the other planets in our solar system and will continued to do so.

As the sun’s rays gently touch your skin, allow yourself to feel the warmth and energy flow slowly through your body…pulsing through your bones…sending healing light to your organs…flowing to your tissues…recharging every system…and now settling into your innermost being…your heart center.

Sense your heart center glowing with this radiant energy. If you wish, give it a color…

Take a few moments to allow this warm and healing energy to reach your innermost being…physically…emotionally…mentally…and spiritually.

Pause for 30 seconds

As this healing energy grows and expands, allow yourself to see, feel, and sense this energy surrounding your being…growing and growing…Allow this energy to further fill this room…this building…surrounding this town…spreading throughout our state…to our country…and out into the worlds…and finally throughout the universe…reaching and touching and blessing all.

Pause for 30 seconds

You may share this healing energy and power with anyone you’re aware of right now…Mentally ask them if they are willing to receive this healing energy…If they are…send this source of healing energy to them…giving them the time they need to take in this energy and make it theirs in their own heart center.

Pause for 30 seconds

Now take your attention back to your own heart center…Find a safe place within you to keep this healing and powerful energy…a place to keep it protected and within your reach…Give yourself permission to get in touch with this energy whenever you wish.

With the warmth of this energy in your being, begin stretching, wiggling, and moving…Slowly open your eyes, feeling alive, refreshed, keenly alert, and completely healthy.

Repeat the above instructions until everyone is alert.

Click here for a printable version.

Julie Lusk, M.Ed., RYT, has dedicated her efforts to helping others attain stress relief, wellness and holistic health through yoga, meditation and guided imagery.Julie Lusk author of 30 Scripts, full of relaxation techniques

Julie has a Masters in Education from Virginia Tech.  She is a National Certified Counselor and Registered/Certified Yoga Teacher.  Julie was a Licensed Professional Counselor in Virginia for 20 years.

Julie has taught yoga since 1977 and is certified to teach a variety of styles ranging from gentle to vigorous yoga.  Yoga Alliance awarded her the highest credential available.  She teaches locally, nationally and is a teacher trainer.

Her previous careers include Regional Director, Mercy Holistic Health and Wellness Centers (Cincinnati, OH), Assistant Dean of Students of Roanoke College (Salem, VA) and Director of Health Management, Lewis-Gale Clinic (Salem, VA).

Julie’s volunteer efforts in community health promotion earned recognition from the US Surgeon General and the Governor of Virginia.

Julie is available as a business and conference speaker and consultant to groups and individuals.  Her books, recordings and other materials are plentiful.

Link to Julie’s website: www.wholesomeresources.com

Check the catalog for relaxation techniques on CD.