|"When I am in my relaxation mood, I enter a quiet, deserted beach ... I collect all my positive thoughts and smile ... My negativity is left to wash away on the shore ... Relaxation has helped me handle my problems in a more calm and respectable way." High School Student, Newark, NJ|
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The relaxation response exercises the Education Initiative trainers use in the classroom are usually kept quite basic and are based on visual imagery or simple yoga stretches and movement.
The first of two exercises available here encourages children to create a mental image of a place they would like to visit:
Students are asked to bring pictures of beautiful places -- beaches, gardens, comfortable rooms, etc. -- to the class and to choose a place that looks relaxing. Then the exercise begins [(P) indicates a pause]:
"Now that you've chosen a picture of a place you'd like to visit we're going to take a vacation without leaving the room. If you're comfortable, you can close your eyes. (P) Imagine yourself in the beautiful place you've chosen. Think of what you would do there. You might be walking, or lying down and resting, swimming, or simply sitting quietly. You are alone, but you are completely safe. (P)
Imagine any sounds that are there, birds, a breeze, water. Is the sun shining? If you're indoors, you might notice the way light falls. This place is perfect and complete. You have everything you need. You are creating this place. (P)
If you become distracted, open your eyes for a moment and look at your picture, then gently close your eyes, bringing yourself back to your safe, relaxing place. (P) (We allow participants a few moments to simply sit quietly as they experience the calm that comes from the relaxation response.)
Now, you can begin to let go of your beautiful place, knowing that you can return for a short vacation at any time. This safe place is always within you. Slowly open your eyes, and as you bring your attention back to the room, take this feeling of calm, peace and relaxation with you, and find it within yourself whenever you need to."
The second exercise is a walking meditation geared for elementary school students but can be adapted for any age group:
"Walking meditation is an ancient practice. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, has said, 'When you walk, let your feet kiss the ground'. Generally, we walk simply to 'get somewhere'. However, with walking meditation the walking itself is the goal and the relaxation tool.
"Today we're going to take a special kind of relaxing walk. We're going to walk slowly; this isn't a race. While we're walking, we're going to repeat the sentence 'I am quiet' in our heads, so no one should be speaking out loud. We're going to walk slowly, and repeat in our minds, 'I am quiet'. And this will help us relax. And think about walking softly, as if your feet are gently patting the floor each time you take a step. Try it now. Walk quietly, and when you breathe in, say to yourself, 'I am quiet' and when you breathe out say to yourself 'I am quiet'. This helps us calm down, and relax. We can relax even when we're walking.
"Walking meditation is a good exercise for days when you feel particularly jumpy because it provides activity and relaxation combined.
"Walking to the school bus is a good place to reinforce walking meditation, so is walking to and from school."
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