Biodots are particularly useful as biofeedback aids during relaxation training, motivating the user and providing reassurance that they have achieved relaxation and stress reduction. Use them when you try the progressive or deep muscular relaxation and meditation methods described below. Do not become concerned if your biodot does not change colour after relaxation training. It may be that you require further practice.
Progressive and deep muscular relaxation
In this technique each of the main groups of muscles is tensed then relaxed (PMR). At each stage the mind is concentrated first on the feelings of tension and then on relaxation. With practice, you can learn to be aware of muscle tenseness so you can easily and automatically convert tension into relaxation. For example, many drivers find their shoulders hunched and hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly that the knuckles turn white. Through PMR, you will recognize this tension and automatically relax the muscles, thus reducing head, neck, shoulder and back pains and stiffness.
Procedure for progressive muscular relaxation
When the body muscles are relaxed, the mind relaxes and this reduces sympathetic nerve activity, leading to a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure. However, the technique is not recommended for sufferers with high blood pressure (hypertension). This is because the tensing of the muscles causes elevation of the blood pressure which then decreases when the muscles are relaxed. So if you suffer with hypertension it is not wise to increase your blood pressure further by tensing the muscles during PMR. Instead we advise you to practise deep muscular relaxation (DMR). This technique is similar to PMR but the muscles are not deliberately tensed prior to relaxing (page 139).
You will need to find a suitable place to practise these techniques; somewhere quiet and warm, where you will not be disturbed. It is advisable not to try them for up to two hours after eating a heavy meal, and use a firm, upright chair rather than an armchair, which can encourage drowsiness. It is helpful to get someone to read the procedure to you so you can concentrate on the movements and technique. Alternatively, ask someone with a soft, relaxing voice to tape-record the instructions (we have deliberately written them almost as a commentary) and play the tape back to yourself. A prerecorded audio-cassette of these procedures is available from Stresswise (see page 209).
Procedure for progressive muscular relaxation (PMR)
Warning: Do not over-tense or over-stretch your muscles. Stop if you feel uncomfortable or experience any pain. Sufferers with high blood pressure are advised to practise deep muscular relaxation instead of using PMR.
Allow 15 minutes.
Place a biodot on your hand and note the colour. Sit comfortably well back in the chair so your back is supported and both feet rest flat on the floor a little way apart. Rest your arms in your lap. Keep your head straight with your chin parallel to the floor. Your breathing should be abdominal and relaxed – gentle, slow and unforced.
Close your eyes and direct your attention to each part of your body in turn. As you tense each set of muscles, concentrate on the tenseness and tightness (hold the position for five seconds or so) and then as you relax the muscles, concentrate on the sensation of relaxation. Notice how the tenseness disappears and the muscles feel at ease, warm and heavy (stay in this position for about ten seconds).
Shrug your shoulders towards your ears; pull them up as far as you can: feel the tenseness in your shoulders and neck. Hold for five seconds. Now relax; feel the muscles relax. Relax for ten seconds.
Now pull your shoulders down towards the floor. Concentrate on the tenseness. Hold it. Now relax.
[Always hold the tenseness for about five seconds and the relaxation for about ten seconds.]
Bend your right arm and make your bicep muscle stand out as much as you can; tense the muscle, hold it … now lower the arm and relax. Turn the palm of your right hand upwards. Clench your right fist as firmly as you can. Concentrate on the tenseness and relax, unfolding your fist. Now stretch your fingers out as far as they will go, feel your fingers stiffen and the thumb pushing away from the fingers. Hold it, feel the tenseness and relax; feel the fingers curl gently inwards.
Bend your left arm and make your bicep muscle stand out; tense the muscle, feel the tenseness: lower the arm and relax. Turn the palm of your left hand upwards. Clench your left fist as firmly as you can and concentrate on the tenseness. Hold it … now unfold your fist and relax. Stretch your fingers as far as they will go. Feel the fingers stiffen, the thumb pushing away from the fingers. Hold it … now relax and notice the fingers curl gently inwards.
Concentrate on your legs. Straighten your right leg and push your foot away from you; feel the tenseness of the muscles on the front of your thigh. Point your toes as far away as you can, now bend your foot back at the ankle. Feel the calf muscle tense in your right leg. Hold it … and relax. Tighten the muscles in your right foot. Curl your toes and when your foot feels as tense as you can make it… relax.
Straighten your left leg and push your foot away from you; feel the tightness of the muscles at the front of your thigh. Point your toes as far away as you can, now bend your foot back at the ankle. Feel the calf muscle tense in your left leg. Hold it … and relax. Tighten the muscles in your left foot. Curl your toes and when your foot feels as tense as you can make it – relax. Relax.
Now lift yourself up by tensing your buttock muscles. Lift higher and higher – hold it… now let the muscles relax.
Contract your abdominal wall muscles – make your waist as small as you can. Feel the tenseness. Hold it … and relax. Now turn your attention to your head. Move your head gently forward until you feel the muscles in your neck and back tighten. Hold it and then return your head back to the centre and relax. Tilt your head to the right, feel the tenseness in your muscles and then return your head to the centre and relax. Now tilt your head to the left, feel the tenseness and return your head to the centre and relax.
Now clench your teeth tightly – feel the pressure and tenseness of your jaw muscles. Allow your jaw to sag slightly, feel the muscle tenseness ease. Let your mouth drop open and feel the tenseness ease further … and relax. Now close your mouth and push your tongue against the roof of your mouth – feel the tenseness and pressure … now relax the tongue behind the lower teeth. Relax.
Smile broadly – feel the change in muscle tenseness – hold it … and relax. Screw up your eyes, tighter and tighter. Hold it … and relax them back into the sockets. Now pull your eyebrows down, now raise them as high as you can, hold it… and relax. Relax.
Concentrate on your breathing: feel your abdominal muscles move slowly out and up as you breathe in and then down and inwards as you breathe out. Your breathing should be slow, gentle and shallow.
Now quieten your mind. Allow your thoughts to drift through your head, without trying to pursue them. As easily as thoughts come into your mind they leave, and as easily as they leave more thoughts effortlessly come in. Recall happy memories. Picture a walk along the seashore; the waves, warm water lapping around your feet as they sink in the sand. Sun glistening on the water. Deep blue cloudless sky. The cries of the gulls.
Sit quietly for five minutes and enjoy the state of relaxation you have created throughout your body. Your body should feel warm and heavy – totally relaxed.
After five minutes open your eyes slowly and look at your biodot. If you are more relaxed than when you started, its colour should be more towards the blue end of the scale. Before you stand up, gently stretch your body and take two or three deep breaths.