September 5, 2014

How to Relax.

rest yoga savasana

Being and doing. Surrender and effort. Yin and yang. They are two sides of the same coin.

It’s important to get stuff done, and ideally in an effective, efficient, sustainable way. Unless we relax first though, we can’t get anything effectively done.

So, how to relax, in spite of feeling busy, overwhelmed, stressed, anxious or depressed? Well, if you’ll allow me to boast for a sec—I’ve gotten pretty darn good at relaxing.

This is not to say that I don’t have my moments of rage, irritation, jealousy, fear and all the rest of it. Those kinds of difficult emotions are just more manageable and usually last more briefly than they used to.

Here are 15 relaxing practices that I employ regularly. May they be of benefit.

Practicing supine yoga.

Or any yoga, really. But the horizontal variety is ideal for maximum relaxation. Get on the floor. Do yin or restorative poses. Take deep breaths. Practice yoga nidra. Take a ridiculously long savasana.

Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens. ~ Jimi Hendrix

Mindful eating.

Prepare something healthy and delicious. Sit down. Hold your hands over the plate. Feel gratitude. Think of all the elements and people who went into getting this food to your mouth. Eat slowly, paying close attention to the taste, texture and sustenance of this miraculous meal.


Ideally, uncontrollable giggles, hearty laughs that may cause hiccups and howls resulting from intense amusement. Hang out with silly old friends, watch some stand-up comedy or a funny movie. Do whatever it takes to get in some quality laughter as often as possible. Your sense of humor makes you more beautiful.

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone. ~ Audrey Hepburn

Reading brilliant books.

Literature, classics, dharma books, yoga books, children’s books. Read and get inspired.

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. ~ Socrates

Making art.

Draw. Paint. Sculpt. Make music. Make a mosaic. Create something!


Plant things, water them, watch them grow. Cultivate.

Bicycling in the countryside.

Bonus points for going on a picnic.


In a river, a pool, a lake, an ocean. Lie back and float, with and without a flotation device.

Lying in a hammock.

Read one of those brilliant books. Or take a nap.

Going away for the weekend.

Road trip! Bed and breakfast. Beach. Camping. Take a little trip for two or three nights. It can make a world of difference, because even a short vacation can change our way of thinking. And…

We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far. ~ Swami Vivekananda


Touch. Be sensual. Trade massages. (Of course, massages are amazingly relaxing and can occur in a platonic situation too.) Kiss. Cuddle. Have sex. Have an orgasm!


Hike, run, bike, swim, do active yoga practice. Get your heart rate up. Enjoy your body and marvel at its capabilities.

Listening to music.

Sing along if you know the words. Listen to jazz, opera, country, rock, salsa, classical, any quality music. Dance with the music at least once per day.


Write about your day, your feelings, your thoughts. Write out your plans and ideas. Write in a diary. Write stream of consciousness. Write honestly and regularly, just for you.

Just sitting.

Sit up with a long spine. Relax your jaw, neck, shoulders and face. Notice the breath going in and the breath going out. Just sit and notice. And sit and notice some more. Always returning to the anchor of the breath, the flagpole of the present moment. Meditate. Do it for as long as you can, then do it again tomorrow.

Here is a story
to break your heart.
Are you willing?
This winter
the loons came to our harbor
and died, one by one,
of nothing we could see.
A friend told me
of one on the shore
that lifted its head and opened
the elegant beak and cried out
in the long, sweet savoring of its life
which, if you have heard it,
you know is a sacred thing.,
and for which, if you have not heard it,
you had better hurry to where
they still sing.
And, believe me, tell no one
just where that is.
The next morning
this loon, speckled
and iridescent and with a plan
to fly home
to some hidden lake,
was dead on the shore.
I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.~ “Lead” by Mary Oliver

How do you relax most deeply? Please comment if inspired and share your two cents.

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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo credit: Felipe Ikehara at Flickr Commons

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