Imagery can be an enjoyable and effective way of helping your muscles let go of tension.
The use of imagery activates the right hemisphere of your brain. Because the right hemisphere has a rich supply of neural connections to your body, when you bring to mind an image that suggests relaxation, your right brain can easily and quickly communicate the feeling of relaxation to your body.
You may think that you’re not good at visualizing things in your mind and so you wouldn't be good at a technique that uses imagery.
The fact is, you’re making use of imagery all the time. Whenever someone tells you about an experience they've had, part of your mind automatically creates an image of what they’re describing.
Has your mouth ever started watering when someone you know describes a delicious meal they had?
Why does that happen? Because your mind, whether you were aware of it or not, was busily constructing images of the food your friend described – how it looked, smelled, tasted, how it would feel in your mouth. And your brain responded to the food you imagined the same way as it would have to the real thing – by making you salivate.
That’s also why you can be surprised when you discover that someone or something you’ve heard a lot about, doesn't turn out to be anything like what you expected. You had created a vivid image of the person or thing in your mind which didn't match the reality.
Images are a very personal thing – and not everyone will find
the same images to be relaxing. Some may find an image of the ocean
very soothing, but it may make others feel anxious.
For this reason, we’re going to suggest a variety of different images you can experiment with to see which, if any, communicate a sense of relaxation to your muscles.
Don’t be concerned if you don’t feel much of an effect at first. You may need to try an image several times before you really connect to it and feel its impact. Or, it may be that you’ll need to come up with images of your own.
Begin by getting into a comfortable position. Spend a moment
observing your breath. Check to make sure your belly is gently moving in and out as your breathe, and let your breath gradually become slower, softer, and a
little deeper. With each exhalation, let yourself release whatever you
were doing, thinking, or feeling before.
Now slowly scan your body looking for any areas where you're holding tension, and see if you can identify one or two places where the tension is most pronounced. These are the areas you’ll focusing on in the exercises that follow.
The first type of image we’ll experiment with is color. So bring
your attention to a place where you’re holding tension and imagine that
it’s being flooded with a bright red color. Imagine the redness is
filling the whole area of tension. As you hold that image, see if you
notice any shift in your sensations.
Now take a deep breath in, and as you exhale let the red color turn into a beautiful, soothing blue – and let that soothing blue color gently penetrate the area of tension. As you hold that image, observe any changes in that area of your body.
Very briefly, imagine the sound of a loud screeching siren.
Feel its loud, abrasive quality, and notice what effect it has on your
area of tension.
Now let the siren sound dissolve, and bring to mind either the sound of a beautiful voice singing one of your favorite melodies, or the sound of birds singing sweetly on warm spring morning – and let that sound penetrate the area tension. As you hold that image, notice any effect it has on the area of tension.
With your awareness on an area of tension in your body, imagine seeing a
sponge directly in front of you – a sponge that is all dried out and a
little compressed. Then imagine the sponge softening and expanding as it
absorbs moisture – and see if you can transfer that feeling to the area
of tension – feeling the tension soften and expand as well.
* * * * * * * *
your awareness on an area of tension, picture in your mind’s eye a pale
pink rosebud. Then imagine it beginning to blossom (like in a time
lapse movie ), opening its petals until the rose is in full bloom. As
each petal unfurls, imagine your muscles opening up to release tension.
And notice any effect this has on your sensations.
Imagine the warmth of the sun penetrating and spreading throughout your area of tension, and observe what happens to your sensations.
Picture an ice cube directly in front of you, and imagine you’re watching it slowly melt away. As it’s melting, imagine the tension in your body melting away. And observe what happens to your sensations.
Imagine the soft downy feathers of a tiny baby bird, and imagine that softness penetrating your area of tension. Or if you prefer, imagine the softness of a baby's cheek, or the softness of a rose petal. Or think of some other image that evokes the sense of softness for you – and let that feeling of softness spread throughout the area of tension, softening and relaxing it. And observe what happens to your sensations.
Imagine the weightless quality of a soap bubble floating in the air. Bring that feeling of weightlessness into the area of tension and see what happens.
Imagine yourself in a large tub of wonderfully warm water – or if it sounds more appealing, imagine yourself in a refreshing cool stream. Feel the movement of the water gently soothing and massaging the area of tension, penetrating it with its warmth or coolness. Imagine the water carrying away your tension. And see what happens.
Inhale with an ocean breath, and imagine that the breath is creating space around the area of tension. As you exhale with an ocean breath, imagine the breath is carrying away the tension. Do this several times, and then breathe normally and observe the sensations.
Once again, it’s quite possible that you’ll need to experiment with these images several times before you can really feel their effects. Also, feel free to come up with your own images, as those are usually the most powerful.