For many years, it has been standard practice for psychologists to prescribe guided muscle relaxation for our clients. This was (and is!) very helpful for calming the nervous system, reducing discomfort caused by tense muscles, and easing the mind.
Times change, and in recent years research evidence for the enormous benefits of meditation have taken the practice of psychology by storm, and as a result many of us have been more focussed on encouraging our clients to meditate than relax. Speaking for myself, I know that I have certainly been personally practicing more of the former than the latter.
Yet this morning I came across one of my old autogenic relaxation tracks, and enjoyed doing it so much that I wondered why I had ever stopped. On reflection, I realised that guided relaxation and meditation should not be considered interchangeable activities.
The purpose of relaxation is to wind down, relax the muscles, beome pleasantly sleepy and perhaps let the mind drift off to a delightful place. It’s often performed laying down comfortably. Conversely, meditation is best performed in an attentive sitting posture, with the aim being to train the mind to focus on one’s present experience. Often the breath (rather than the muscles or a fantasy) is the object of concentration. This technique can help us to stay centred.
Ultimately both techniques can result in feeling a kind of relaxed alertness once they are complete. Why not try them for yourself? I have included some examples in the ‘downloads’ tab of this website. Enjoy!