Conditions for Relaxation.
I have come to realise that an atmosphere or experience is somehow influenced by the stimulation of our individual senses. That every experience we have is a combination of our senses which is then processed by our brain and makes us feel a certain state of being. Therefore during relaxation, when our main aim is to avoid distraction of the mind, sensory stimulation needs to be avoided, and the atmosphere needs to very neutral in order return the body to a very natural state of relaxation.

The temperature and conditions of the space need to be right in order to create a sense of ease. The room needs to be of a warm temperature, but obviously not too warm, but also well maintained, ensuring that there is plenty of air, and oxygen in the room. This will enable the body to feel comfortable. Blankets can be used to help if the room has inadequate heating, and the use of cushions and bolsters can help with ensuring the body's comfort. If the body feels physically comfortable the mind is more likely to feel safe.

The environment also needs to be free from major distractions, and too many visual stimuli. Ideally the room would be of a neutral colour, as colours can often stimulate brain activity through the eye and certain colours have certain effects. Preferably the room would be fairly minimal, free from too much clutter and furniture. The level of light can also be important, it sometimes helps if the lights can be dimmed down, as bright light can still be distracting to the senses even if the eyes are closed. It is also important to ensure that there will be no interruptions during relaxation, whether doors and windows be closed, depends upon the location. Loud noises coming from outside will need to be considered, and the possible use of music or even sounds may be used. Certain sounds have been proven to aid relaxation, just as many sounds in today,s society can pollute our minds!

Dependent upon health and safety issues, the use of incense or aromatherapy oils can be used to aid relaxation. Many smells such as Lavender, Camomile and Sandalwood have amazing relaxing properties. Also it is essential to be aware of any nasty smells coming from outside or even nearby toilets etc. Essentially the mind needs to feel as though it is in a safe and comfortable environment in order for the person to be able to let go and experience relaxation. Safety and trust is something that will hopefully increase over time, but ensuring comfort and an un-distracted environment will help experience relaxation and for it to be a pleasurable one.

Relaxation Techniques.

There are several techniques suitable to help experience relaxation. Many of which work on relaxing the body and mind simultaneously. The body has often been in a tense state for prolonged periods of time so it may be difficult for people to experience complete relaxation at first and will need to be informed of such. There is an absolutely perfect description of relaxation taken from The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness, by Erich Schiffmann:

`The technique is simple. Keep it simple. All you do is relax, everywhere - and then be aware of how you feel. Relax and feel. That`s it, in brief. Relax every physical and mental tension, temporarily let go of everything you don`t need, and then simply pay attention and see what happens. For these few minutes, willingly put aside your worries, fears and concerns of the day, and release every discernible hint of tension in your body - and then be aware of how you feel. Savour the way you feel. Experience what`s happening right there where you are.`

This makes it sound so easy! But there are also many techniques to help the us to try and reach this state of relaxation.

One technique used to relax the body is to clench individual muscles or parts of the body. By first tensing the muscles it helps focus the mind on that particular area, and also to experience the feeling of tightness. Then by releasing, and letting go we can feel the muscle relax and the effect it has on the mind. It is best to focus on individual parts of the body: hands, feet, fingers, legs, face, instead of the whole body as the mind is more able to focus on smaller muscles and greater body awareness will be experienced. Using this technique the mind can then take the body on a journey, tensing and relaxing. Starting at the forehead and ending at the toes.

Another technique is to lead the students to relaxation through their senses. Allowing them to be aware of certain smells, or sounds outside the room, leading them inside the room, perhaps then leading to the sounds and breathing movements from within their own bodies. Can they feel or even hear the own heart beating? Can they hear the sound of the breath or is there no sound at all?

Just simply observing the breath and not trying to control it. Breath awareness. Perhaps this could also allow them to follow the journey of the breath as it travels through in through the nose down the throat and into the lungs around the body and back into the lungs and then expelled out of the lungs. Sensing the change in temperature of the air: cool on the way in and warmer on the way out. Perhaps then encouraging the student to watch how the chest rises and falls, in and out co-inciding with the breath.

Another technique is using visualisation. Taking the student on a journey in their imagination, or to an idealistic tranquil place asking them to sense different parts. What can they smell, how does it feel? It is important in these visualisations to avoid places or experiences with water, as some students may feel uncomfortable around water and may cause fear instead of relaxation. Just to be aware of the fact that every individual experience will be a different one.