Relaxation & Guided Imagery (GI) are safe, fast, effective mind body techniques that almost anyone can learn, even those with cognitive difficulties. It’s often easier for Westerners to learn than meditation because it does not require the same time and skill level to achieve success. Those who engage in anxious thinking find this approach helpful because it is not necessary to clear one’s mind with each breathe and because the emphasis on creating deep body relaxation first and then the use of sensory images tends to bypass left-brain thinking and fretful thoughts.
The Relaxation and Guided Imagery techniques that I teach start with a particular kind of relaxation, referred to as autogenic training (self-generating). Belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) is employed and then I guide you to imagine relaxing different parts of your body and letting go of stress stored in the body. Then you’re invited to imagine healing and loving images with your senses. This combined relaxation and sensory imaging evokes rapid shifts in perception and behavior in a fun, curious way. The Relaxation Response achieved expands blood flow, slows heart and breathing rates, reduces muscle tension and serum cholesterol levels and promotes a present focus. With just a little practice, the healing sensory imagery reverberates deep within your body repeatedly. Though images of events, places or scenes are imagined, the mind does not discriminate the sensory images from real ones. As a result, the effects are experienced as whole felt body states in which you can interact with sensory images to increase well-being, problem solve or rehearse and prepare for future challenges.
Even introductory GI exercises can reduce tension headache, increase rest and sleep, lower stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, shift pain experience and increase short-term immune function. With more advanced GI exercises, one can focus on a particular end result they’d like to experience, prepare for surgery or chemo or radically improve energy and mood and reduce fatigue. GI is a wonderful empowering tool to cope and improve symptom management of many health conditions. It is also an effective method to overcome test or performance anxiety, dental anxiety, caregiver stress or stress associated with challenging medical procedures.