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Healthy Lifestyles

Being a chronic insomniac, I decided some time ago, I needed to get off of sleeping aids and learn to manage my insomnia.  After investigation, I discovered that my sleeplessness was related to anxiety.  For whatever reason, I simply have a great amount of "mind-clutter", meaning over-active thought activity or worries.  In response, I developed a relaxation "exercise" that has worked for me every time I have ever tried it.  Perhaps it may work for you!

Let me just preface this with the advice that you should always consult your physician if you have chronic sleeplessness.  This article is not to take place of any medical advice.  This is just an exercise that has worked for myself and a few others.  If you don't have success the first time you try this, please don't get discouraged, as it may take some time to learn to quiet your mind.  The last thing you need to do is add further anxiety by placing additional, undue stress on yourself for not being able to "achieve" sleep through this or any other meditative exercise.

This relaxation technique should work well on someone who is having trouble sleeping because of stress or excessive "mind clutter".  I suggest that after reading this article, if you feel it will help you, record the exercise on a cassette tape or other sound recording device and play it as you try the exercise.  You may also want to record some soft, relaxing music in the background, behind your vocal recording.  Remember to speak slowly and allow yourself time to complete each relaxation.  You may want to repeat sentences to reinforce and allow more time to do the exercise.  This guided activity will help you to stay focused.  I've included the entirety of the exercise in an underline paragraph for the purpose of recording.

Relaxation Exercise:

First, lay comfortably on your back.  Sometimes I like to put a pillow under my knees for extra comfort.  I recommend this exercise on the back because it opens up the chest for easier breathing.  Unless your doctor has advised you to sleep in a different position, try this exercise on your back.


Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose.  This breath is a cleansing breath, meaning it originates in the belly and fully extends through the lungs.  Breathe out through your mouth.  The inhalation and exhalation should be slow, relaxed, and complete.  Repeat.  Again, these breaths should be slow and effortless.  Each inhalation brings you healing, comfort, and peace.  Each exhalation releases tension, negativity, and clears mind clutter.  As you continue breathing deeply and freely, you should feel relaxed and peaceful.  Inhale....Exhale.  Focus your mind on breathing and releasing all other thoughts.  Inhale....exhale.  You will become very aware of your heartbeat.  All thoughts will be tuned to how you feel, the internal working of your being. There is no time limit.  There is no time.  It's just you....relaxed and free.  Now, you focus your attention on your toes.  Beginning with your toes, relax all of the muscles in your feet, (you will slowly move your focus all the way up your body, relaxing all the muscles as you go.)  Relax your toes, the muscles in your feet...ankles...calves... and shins.  Breathe.  Your knees are well as your thighs...hips...and buttocks.  Breathe. Take your time as you travel up your spine.  Start with the base and visualize each vertebrae and all the muscles connected to it.  Focus on releasing the muscles around each vertebrae and slowly relax all the muscles as you go up the spine, vertebrae by vertebrae.  Relax all muscles in the middle of your between the shoulder blades...and the back, front, and tops of the shoulders.  (Often, people have a large amount to tension around the upper back and  shoulders.  Take your time and focus on these areas, exhaling all tension as you go.)  After releasing all of the spine and jaw muscles, turn your attention to your abdomen.  Start at the bottom, deep in the pelvis and visualize the organs that make up your abdomen as soft, free, and healthy.  Move slowly up the abdomen; belly and diaphragm, with healing breaths. It's okay if you feel a release of emotion.  If you find that you are emotional, realize that it's because we store emotional pain in our bodies and the gut is a very vulnerable place physically and emotionally.  At the chest, focus on releasing any fears or anxiety as we often hold these emotions here.  Continue to move up the chest and neck area. As you move up to the facial muscles, focus on breathing again and releasing all tension there. Focus on releasing the muscles associated with the jaw as often worries are stored here.  Your facial muscles are all totally relaxed, now.  When you get to the very top of your head, your body should be completely free and relaxed.  It is as if you don't know where your body ends and the bed begins.  Some people describe this feeling as lighter than air, some people say it's as if they have sunk into the bed.  Nonetheless, it's a feeling of complete surrender.

However. if you have completed your whole body relaxation exercise and you still feel as if you are a ball of tension, I have yet another exercise to help you further relax.  Begin at your feet again....this time you will very slowly tense your muscles, starting at your feet and go to the very top of your head.  The key here, is to do this slowly and gradually increase the intensity.  You do not want to tense your body too much and/or too quickly - because you can strain your muscles if you do.  After you have tensed yourself, gradually release, as stated earlier, from your feet to your head.  This should reactivate some muscles enough to where they can be released further from tension.  The point to this exercise is to become aware of these muscles so that you can release them.  Sometimes, when we are in a constant state of tension, we become desensitized to tension in parts of our body.  I do not recommend that you do the tension exercise more than twice.  If it is done twice and you still feel tension in your body, I suggest that you see your doctor and ask your doctor for a recommendation and/or prescription for body work - i.e. massage therapy, etc.  In cases of extreme stress, nutritional deficiencies, and sometimes, chronic problems due to injury, it simply may not be possible to completely relax all muscles.  But do not worry.  You are on your way to healing your body.  You are on the path to healing because you are becoming more "self-aware".

(Back to relaxation exercise:)

By now you are very relaxed.  Your breathing is effortless and healing.  You feel your heart beating and the pulse of your body.  You can feel the blood flowing through your body, your life-force.  You are "tuned in" to your the rhythm of your body.  This is all you feel at this moment.  This is often where sleep begins.  You are in a theta state.  You are relaxed and your conscious mind has faded into a state of being.

This is the part of the exercise where one of two things usually happens, either you are asleep or your mind begins to wander.  Do not let your mind wander!  Instead focus your attention on your body.  If you feel your mind wandering or worrying or thinking about what you have to do tomorrow, stop, breathe, and focus.  Sometimes, it helps if I look at the blackness in my eyes.  I know it's sounds strange, but if you just try, you may find it works well.

(Back to relaxation exercise:)

With your eyes still closed, focus on the blackness you see.  Your mind is in a void, there is nothing bad, nothing to think about, nothing to feel, but relaxed.  You are meditating on relaxing and you are thinking of nothing.  This not a state of doing, it is a state of being. 

It has been reported that some people see images at this time, or hear words in their head.  I suggest that this is the beginning of a dream state.  You are in a low theta state, where you are relaxed and drifting into sleep.  When images come up, I let them pass through me and attach no thought.  It's actually quite peaceful.

(Back to relaxation exercise:)

You are not is a state of thought, you are in a state of being.

There is no time.  Enjoy this relaxed state.  There is nothing you need to do.  There is nothing

you need to think about...just be.  You will fall asleep.  You are asleep.

Some people say it's helpful at this point to tell themselves that they are safe, free, and will have only good dreams.  For myself, I have always drifted off to sleep with this exercise.  The most difficult part being; quieting my mind. 

Remember, you may make several attempts before having success with this relaxation exercise.  That's okay.  You are training yourself, your mind, and your body to relax.  Once you do this successfully, you will create a new "mind path" and it can and will become habit if you continue to do the exercise.  Best of luck to you.  Hope this helps.

About the Author:

Tamara Timmerman is a researcher on holistic therapies and matters on health for people and animals.

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