Laura Mitchell was a physio who had severe arthritis and a lot of pain. She tried all the conventional relaxation techniques, but none helped her relax. Then she had one of those ideas that was so obvious you wonder why no one had thought of it before. She moved her joints into the opposite position to the fight and flight pain pattern, which stretched out the tense muscles, held it for 5 counts and stopped. And it worked. As she put her joints out of the tension pattern, and stretched out the tense muscles, she had less pain.
It works because your brain has thousands of nerves to every joint – you always know where they are without looking.
But there are hardly any nerves to the muscles, so it is hard to know if they are relaxed or not, apart from tension pain or the movement of the skin above them.
I have found this a very successful technique:-
*As it works to help women move into calm between contractions in delivery suite.
*It works for people in acute medical wards with medical conditions and tense fearful life moments.
*It has been good for stress management seminars when I want to lead people into experiencing calm in a short period of time, so they can relearn what calm feels like in the middle of stressful situations where they want to maintain control of a situation with efficiency and problem solving without feeling overwhelmed.
*It works when you just want to stop and take in the beauty of a moment of scenery or music or emotional interaction.
*It works when you stop at the end of a hard day and just want to let the stress flow out of your body.
In the brief encounters I have with people, I often have one chance to teach the experience of something that will change their lives.
So I like to go straight for the heart of the matter, and I have found Laura Mitchell Relaxation works –
Because it is Simple.
I have found the technique of tensing muscles and letting go has not been as successful. I think people do not actually ‘let go’ enough compared to the Laura Mitchel technique of stretching the tension out.
Laura Mitchel Simple Relaxation Technique
To begin with, you should practice it when you are lying down, and if you put a pillow under your knees it will help relax your abdominal muscles.If you have a sore back you may need two or three pillows to allow your pelvis to rock back and take the strain off the lumbar spine. And feel free to modify the position until you feel comfortable. Later, you can progress yourself to adapting the technique to side or front lying, sitting and standing.
Before you start, give yourself permission to lie there: You are not ‘doing nothing’.
Body resting back
Press your shoulders and feet into the bed as though you were about to lift your bottom up. Hold for five counts and stop.
Your tummy and bottom will go soft and you will be aware that your support is taking all of your weight. If you are positioned somewhere that gives your trunk support, make sure your shoulder blades are in contact with it. This will mean your abdominal muscles can really relax and the support will do the work of holding you.
Neck and shoulders relax down
This is the only area with a double instruction.
Press the back of your head gently into the support and slide your hands towards your feet. You will be aware of a stretch across the top of your shoulders and down the back of your head. Hold for five counts and stop.
Your head will stay resting back against its support, and your shoulders will come back up to where gravity wants them. But be aware that your shoulders have dropped down, away from your ears.
Fingers gently curl
Stretch your fingers out and apart, the opposite to making a fist, and feel a stretch in the palm of your hands. Hold for five counts and stop.
Your fingertips will rest lightly on whatever support is available or, if your palms are facing up, your fingers will gently curl.
Legs rolled out and still
Roll your knees and feet out. Hold for five counts and stop.
They may stay there or roll back slightly. Your legs will be rolled out under their own weight, with the kneecaps pointing away from each other.
And, you jigglers, enjoy the sensations of your legs being heavy and still.
Feet hanging loose or resting on the floor
If you don’t have a tendency to get cramp, push your toes away from you and feel a stretch over the front of your ankles. Hold for five counts and stop.
And now let them hang where gravity wants them.
This is an important area as it is surprising how many people sit with their toes pulled up towards their knees as if they were about to kick or run.
With your lips together, separate your back teeth until you feel a strong stretch in your jaw just in front of your ears. Make sure you do not move this joint into pain, as this may activate more muscle spasm. Hold for five counts and stop.
If you are a jaw clencher, you may need to repeat this stretch a few times until you can open your mouth easily.
If you are a chronic clencher, you may need to do another stretch to bring in a deeper layer of muscles. To do this, bring your bottom teeth forward in front of your top teeth with a stretch but no pain, hold for five counts and stop.
Then do a silent scream – open your mouth as wide as you can, hold for five counts and stop. Now you will be able to keep your lips together and feel your jaw hang gently off your cheekbones. To take the strain off this joint, make sure your head is not jutting forward in that ‘chook-look’ posture discussed earlier.
This is the only movement that you need to do when no one is watching you, as it does look a bit strange. Try it at the red traffic lights or on the toilet so the people around you won’t worry about what you are up to.
Where is your tongue?
If your tongue seems glued to the roof of your mouth, very gently prise it off and press it gently onto the floor of your mouth, hold five counts and let it go. The tip of your tongue should rest behind your front teeth.
For eye strain
Close your eyes and imagine you can see a boat moored to a wharf. Then watch as the big ropes holding it are thrown off, and the boat starts to move away from you, getting smaller and smaller until it disappears over the horizon. Now relax your eyes.
Raise your eyebrows up as far as you can towards your hairline. Hold for five counts and let them go.
Allow an expression of calm to come over your face that will reflect the calm in your whole body. Smoothness over your forehead, around your eyes and across your cheeks.
When you have finished, take a moment to reflect on what your body feels like out of the tension pattern.
A Quick Body Scan in lying or sitting
Resting back – shoulder blades in contact with any support you have behind you
Tummy soft – yes, relax those muscles
Legs still and rolled out under their own weight
Then do gentle nose-diaphragm breathing to bring a deeper awareness of that calm
I talk you through a 13 minute relaxation and breathing session free of charge on the relaxation button on the home page of this website
And enjoy the treasures of Rest.