Chambered Nautilus Training Group
Permanent Stress Reduction
Mastering Necessary Relaxation Techniques
- Usefulness of owning a Technique
- Learning the Deep or Cleansing Breath
III. Learning complete Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Specific benefits of these exercises within Chambered Nautilus
Training Programs and Whole Person Life enrichment
- Usefulness of owning these techniques.
We use the idea of owning in the sense of taking responsibility of possessing and nurturing these skills. They are tools that build the foundation for the problem solving methods presented in the Chambered Nautilus Programs.
Even if you find you are not interested in specifically dealing with stress or anger or learning to meditate, knowing how to relax the entire body and use a deep, calming breathing technique on a daily basis can give you a whole new sense of peace and composure. An end result most of us would be happy to achieve.
Not enough people know how to truly take ownership for their feelings and actions, particularly when those feelings or actions produce negative results. It is so much easier to play a blame game, dodging responsibility by looking for the perfect scapegoat.
By owning these techniques we acknowledge that we can do some things that actually improve our physical/mental state, thereby opening the door to deal with states of mind/feelings that we find in ourselves. We discover endless opportunities to grow in self-knowledge and emotional stability.
- Learning the Deep or Cleansing Breath
Breathing is one of the most essential and obvious elements of
our continuing human existence. Hard to imagine that something so essential to our being alive is so taken for granted that we choose not to “tinker” with it unless we have a specific medical reason. We hope to challenge some assumptions here by showing how a little tinkering in a healthy body can be a good thing.
First, we should examine what is taking place every time we breathe oxygen in and exhale carbon dioxide. Try to visualize this process as much as you can. Most people have seen pictures of lungs and know that as they fill with air they expand to take in needed oxygen and then they contract or deflate in order to expel negative carbon molecules.
This seemingly simple process involves an amazing exchange of energy conversion, wherein the life sustaining blood in our body carries away the used-up enriching oxygen, now converted to toxic carbon, and recharges the blood cells with a fresh dose of that precious air that keeps us alive, enriching every cell in the body.
No one had to teach us how to breathe. Except for a transitional jolt of some kind that broke our complacent connection to our mother’s oxygen supply and launched us into the amazing world of air breathing creatures, our bodies initiated the process without our consent and will continue to operate until the end of our lives.
So why tinker with the process at all? Just because it is automatic and needs no conscious direction does not mean it always operates at optimal levels. Because we don’t think too much about breathing we unwittingly do all kinds of things that begin to impede
its effectiveness. We sit still for hours on end. We seldom exert ourselves, we smoke, we ride in vehicles or elevators when we could easily walk, and so on.
Obviously, this is sufficient for surviving on a daily basis. But survival living, in place of optimal living, is hardly a goal we should cherish. We lose ground by default. This is an attitude that is far from ownership!
By taking the time to learn Deep Breathing, we are working toward the goal of feeling more alive with an oxygen rich body and because of that, are able to achieve a daily sense of calm and relaxation.
Steps to learning effective relaxation
Many of us have the option of using cruise control while driving a car. This is a very useful option when applied in the correct situation.
However, there are many times when cruising along at 60 or 70 miles an hour is not only impractical but downright dangerous. Luckily, we have options installed that will kick the engine out of cruise and back to human control until the danger is past.
Our breathing is usually in a cruise control state. We don’t have to regulate frequency or depth of a breath in normal circumstances. At times though we encounter foul or unhealthy air that we don’t want to enter our lungs and we take quick, short breaths, until the air clears. This is a controlled change of breathing pattern that we instinctively use.
Unfortunately, because our emotions follow from our perceptions, (as we have learned through other Segments of our training program), we can find ourselves in scary or threatening situations that will automatically throw our breathing into a hyperactive state, or hyperventilation. If these situations are real, i.e. I am in real danger of being injured, or there is real possibility that I might suffer some terrible consequences from my situation, the need for rapid breathing is necessary to feed the abnormal blood flow that is automatically putting me into the defense state known as fight or flight.
This automatic response, in these situations, is a good thing. On the other hand, if my perceptions signal something that is not real, I only imagine something bad will or actually is happening, this is not a good thing. Notice that the end result is the same, in that being scared out of my wits will produce real rapid breathing and elevated heart rate, etc. But if the threats are not real, my defenses could be in a state of runaway. I’m panicking, or raving, screaming, perspiring, hyperventilating and can even be a danger to my self, my body’s equilibrium, as well as a threat to those around me. This is not a happy state of affairs.
Since my emotional, physical feeling is the same whether the threat is objectively real or subjectively real, (i.e. it may be only my perception of possible threat but it feels real), I still have to try to restore my body to normal functioning, or my personal “vehicle” is likely to crash. The good news is that by learning this controlled Deep Breath technique under non stressful situations I am already half way along to quickly gaining control in any real stressful situation.
Step 1. As you will be learning a new skill, take the time to do this peacefully. Choose a quiet place with as little background noise as possible.
Once in a quiet setting, sit comfortably, with the back straight and well supported, knees bent at 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor and relaxed.
Take a moment to become aware of your normal breathing pattern. Compared to what you will soon learn, you will probably observe the pattern most people do when not aware of the breath. Typically this will be a shallow breath technique; regular, but not optimal in exchanging carbon with fresh oxygen.
Now think about your shoulders, your lung cavity and your stomach muscles. Focus attention on the layer of muscle that lies between the lungs and the stomach. This is the diaphragm muscle and it acts like a bellows to help draw air into the expanding, inhaling lung,
then, during the exhale, along with the stomach muscles, it will help compress the lung from the bottom up, pushing as much carbon out, before the next inhalation.
Think of yourself as an athlete training for a sporting event. Maybe a swimmer, competing in a diving event. While the dive itself is seen as one, smooth operation, it is clear that many hours have been spent concentrating on one set of muscles and how they move to achieve optimal effect.
The more you can identify the simple elements of the deep breath that are combined into a new pattern for you, the sooner you will master the technique and the sooner it will become an automatic response when you want to relax.
Once you are familiar with the key points above, put your conscious awareness into each step and visualize the effects on the breath exchange taking place in the lungs.
Step 2. INHALE As you begin to inhale, the stomach muscles out, as if trying to make a pot belly. At the same time raise the shoulders slowly and push the diaphragm muscle downward. Feel the lungs filling with oxygen. Using the “one thousand and one, one thousand and two” count, see how long you can comfortably extend the inhaling process.
This takes a little coordination to make it smooth and easy. Remember, you are probably a typical, life long, shallow-breather.
Step 3 HOLD THE NEW BREATH Once the inhalation is complete, let’s say you mastered 7 seconds of air intake, hold that breath for about the same time of your intake, in this case 7 seconds.
This stage of the cleansing breath technique this is a very important.
This is when the exchange of new oxygen for old carbon is completed and the depth of the breath itself is allowing this exchange to happen as never before. It is literally re-vital-izing.
Now begin a controlled exhale.
Step 4 EXHALE Slowly exhale the carbon-filled air from your lungs by reversing what you have just done in the intake process.
As you relax the shoulders, begin to pull the stomach back to its normal position and then keep pulling it in and upward, along with the diaphragm, to force as much air out of the lungs as possible.
Ideally, this to could be done within your 7 second time frame.
Using a time count helps to establish a balanced process of one whole breath. The number of seconds is not important. Do what you are comfortable with. As you practice the whole sequence smoothly, the length of the process will likely increase.
Once the exhalation is complete, immediately begin a smooth switch-over to a second breath. If this process is new to you, don’t be concerned if it seems difficult. Your body will thank you for all your effort. Even when you don’t have the luxury of peace and quiet practicing, when you need to take a deep, calming breath in real life confrontations, you will be able to do so and will keep thinking and responding with a clear head and steady hand.
Deep Breathing will be effective in reducing stress, anger responses, anxiety symptoms or sudden emotionally charged situations, and is an essential component of our Training Group Programs.
At times when you simply long for a few relaxing minutes to restore your personal balance, there is no better way than using the deep, cleansing breath.
For total relaxation, perhaps at the end of a busy day or when preparing for what you know will be a stressful event, combine this technique with Progressive Muscle Relaxation as described below.
No special equipment is required, only mastery of the techniques.
They can be done anywhere without calling attention to yourself.
If you are interested in learning or improving your meditation skills, these two strategies are practically essential to producing a satisfactory experience.
Our Chambered Nautilus Training Program provides a separate meditation segment (Segment 2), that can be used over and over again. Segments on stress reduction, (Segment 1), and managing anger, Segment (4), also use these breathing and relaxation techniques.
Please continue on to the training section below on Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
III. Learning Complete Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Just as Deep Breathing techniques have many applications depending on one’s life circumstances, there are many times that progressive muscle relaxation will prove helpful, and at times even necessary, to function at our best level.
Throughout our training programs, a basic principle of the Chambered Nautilus Training Group is that human beings, though often described as being made up of body and soul, or spirit, this idea does not do justice to who we are as whole beings. We are one thing, not two.
In CNTG, we prefer to think of ourselves as Bodies-that-Think.
We like to stress that responding to emotional stimuli is a whole person event, not just the person’s “feeling” problem that has to be solved mentally.
What we often consider purely “mental” processes, don’t occur only in the brain.
Mental functioning is Whole-Body-Thinking.
We are not “disjointed spirits” driving around as it were in a physical shell.
We are bodies/ thinking; our thoughts are meshed with our every cell and in our blood and vice-versa.
Therefore, when we treat of deep breathing technique or muscle
relaxation techniques, it is always aimed at the whole person
Relaxation works at many levels to effect optimal living for individuals, assisting with better results in all their Body/Thinking activities.
That being said, we all know how hard it can be to get things done when the body is “out of sorts” or when we are obsessed or distracted in our ability to concentrate, especially when under pressure.
As the name implies, this technique will bring about total body relaxation by moving through muscle groups in a systematic way.
This progression will yield even faster results if we can concentrate on each group of muscles while moving them, consciously joining in the tensing and relaxing phase of the technique as best we can.
It is possible to start with any muscle group but most people find that starting with the feet and working upward is an easy way to maintain a consistent method of progression.
The basic activity is fairly simple. While concentrating on a muscle group, tense those particular muscles tightly and count at least 10 seconds, then gently relax the tension and wait until a distinct relaxing feeling is enjoyed. This should occur very soon if the tensing movement has been tight enough. Once this point is reached the practitioner moves on to the next group and repeats the process.
Again, there is nothing difficult about the mechanics of this method but the over-all effect will be increased in proportion to the degree that one is able to concentrate only on the muscles involved and not be distracted by unrelated events, no matter how pressing.
You will certainly notice the effectiveness if you use this method to combat the classic condition of tossing and turning, trying to fall asleep, but the tapes in your brain just won’t stop.
Few things are more frustrating than trying to make oneself fall asleep. Most efforts are counter-productive. A well executed progressive relaxation of the body will work in a remarkably short time. This outcome alone makes learning the technique worthwhile.
And although we recommend using this technique any time you are feeling stress or simply in need of calming yourself down, it may not be a good remedy to practice while driving your car.
- A Sample Progression Outlined
While we talk about working muscle groups as a unit, in practice you will find that even when concentrating on one “group” muscles and tendons of the adjoining groups will feel activated. All the more reason to concentrate specifically on the particular muscles you are manipulating, enjoying the tensing or stretching there and the subsequent release.
Let’s start with the feet. When we have both left and right appendages we always work them both at the same time. The goal is to work up through the different regions of the body, all the way to the face and head and then back down in reverse order. You may find that you concentrate best on 8 or 9 total muscle groups and at 20-15 seconds in each group, you will finish the whole routine in a matter of a few minutes. And since this is merely a tense and release process, it can be done even in a crowd and no one would notice. (Except when you get to the facial muscles, people may look at you strangely or ask if you are all right).
a) Begin by bending both feet forward and backward, then rotating at the ankles 2 or 3 times, clockwise then counter clockwise. Stretch them forward again for 5 or 10 seconds, backward for the same count and the relax them completely. Let all the tension flow out.
b) Move up to the calf muscles of each leg and try to contract them as much a possible and hold that contraction for 10 seconds. Here is where you will experience the motion in adjoining muscles but stay concentrated as much as possible on the calves. Once again, release the tension and relax those muscles completely.
c) Progress immediately to the large thigh muscles, tensing the quads and the gluteus muscles. Ignore the reactions of lesser muscles that will automatically move and think only of the tension applied to the group you are aiming at. Hold as tight as possible for your comfortable count of seconds and release thoroughly.
d) Now go to the stomach and torso area and tense as much as you can. This will involve some of the lower back area and the lats as well.
e) Stretch both arms and tense up from the biceps to the fingers, holding and releasing for your now familiar length of time.
f) Roll the shoulders a little and tense the muscles, along with the neck. Most people have significant tension in this area all day long and often do not notice it until it really starts to hurt. Raising the shoulders slightly and doing a shrug motion with the neck, bring relief if it is done tightly, followed with a total relaxing release movement.
g) If you choose, you can scrunch up all your facial muscles, as there are hundreds of those tiny smile and frown jobs that follow our emotions all day long. They can always use a good stretch.
h) All you have to do now is work you way back down the body, using the same pattern, all the way to the feet and you will be ready for the next thing that challenges you.
If you have to go back into action and you feel comfortable enough, you should now be alert and ready.
If you still haven’t met your relaxation goal level, simply start
another series, progressing from toes to head and back again.
If you are concentrating on a project or particular task, or meditating, your body comfort will be an asset rather than a distraction.
You will be correct to notice that in practice it is impossible to separate you muscle groups as easily as suggested. Each group is essentially connected to other groups, and so on.
What we emphasize is the importance of placing your consciousness on each group as you go, feeling the tenseness of the contractions and the relaxation of the release in each area of your body. The stronger the tensing, the more refreshing is the relaxing.
Consciousness welcomes a calm state of awareness.
If you are trying to sleep, you might not even finish one circuit of the recommended progression. This happens to many people.
Again, if you are still tossing and turning, get into a motionless
position and repeat the progression. Concentration works well here
because as you pay attention to your tensing and relaxing you are
not thinking about all those concerns or worries that have been
keeping you awake. It is much cheaper than a sleep aid pill, and
better for your health in the long run.
This concludes the Segment 4 on Mastering Necessary
We call them necessary techniques for 2 reasons. One, if you have been using the Segments of our training program on Stress Reduction or on Anger, or have been practicing our mediation techniques, you will find it absolutely essential to relax the entire ThinkingBody in order to incorporate the changes in awareness/behavior that will be your reward for persisting in these programs.
The second reason we use the term Necessary, is that even people who have no need or interest in our Training Program topics, will still have a need to employ both a clear thought process and calm behavior to deal with daily tensions.
Mastering Necessary Relaxation Techniques can be considered as a necessary condition for achieving ownership of positive living experiences.
End of Segment 3.