A Technique for Relaxing, Letting Go of Stress, This Holiday Season

November 29, 2014 Updated: November 29, 2014

A few years ago in autumn, I went to Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece of American architecture in Stewart Township, Pa. I gazed upon the beautiful home, surrounded by trees adorned with golden leaves. There was a stream of water naturally flowing inside and around the building, and leaves periodically fell through the air into the water below.

The scene provided a beautiful reprieve from the hectic days of the holiday season. But you don’t have to travel to Fallingwater—only use your imagination—to find a way to relax.

The following meditative exercise is a wonderful way to induce sleep and relaxation. It can be done either seated or lying down before sleep. 

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Make sure that you are seated or lying comfortably in a quiet, darkened area with no distracting lights, sounds, or smells. Sense the contact with the surface you are on.

What else can you “give” to this surface so it supports you more? If seated, sink the buttocks into the chair and allow the feet to settle comfortably on the floor. If lying down, surrender your weight to the mattress.

Breathe in and out through your nose. Sense the speed of the air coming in and out. Is it the same?

Feel the temperature of the air coming in and out. Can you sense if the air is cooler upon entering the body than upon leaving it?

While focusing on your breath, imagine that you are in a tranquil forest in autumn with golden-colored leaves all about. There is a stream of water. Periodically, a leaf falls gracefully from a tree into the passing stream.

As you try to imagine this, unrelated thoughts may appear in your mind. When any such thought arises, put it on one of the imagined leaves and visualize it falling into the water. Let it be taken away by the current.

As another thought appears, put it on a leaf again. Let it fall into the water and drift off into the distance. Repeat as needed.

You may wish to record yourself reading this mini-lesson, so that you can play it to yourself whenever you need to relax or want to drift off to sleep.

Many of my clients have reported that their heart rate and blood pressure drop when using this imagery. Some of those who are diabetic have said that their blood sugar levels drop as well.

Techniques presented in this article are based on Michael Krugman’s Sounder Sleep System and the work of Moshé Feldenkrais.

Frederick E. Schjang is a nationally recognized fitness educator and innovator specializing in the Feldenkrais method, Pilates, and flexibility training. For more information visit: FrederickSchjang.com

*Image of a leaf in water via Shutterstock