Patients come in for acupuncture for a wide variety of issues: backpain, whiplash, menstrual problems, chronic headaches, insomnia, digestive upset, anxiety, asthma, hotflashes…and you would be amazed how many people report that their symptoms are worse with stress. Because stress is so prevalent in our society, and because it can absolutely wreak havoc on the body, we often include points or herbs in treatment that are specifically meant to promote relaxation and help the body to deal with the symptoms of stress. In addition to acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, though, I often have my patients practice some form of meditation or visualization. For some, meditation comes naturally, and many have prior experience with various disciplines of meditative practice. However, quieting the mind to a place where meditation can be successful is very challenging for some people. In these instances, I like to start off with a very simple visualization focused on connecting with the body and promoting a more relaxed state of being. I use this during my acupuncture treatments, sometimes, but it will be most effective if you get in the habit of using it at least once per day. Once you have mastered this technique, other relaxation and meditative techniques will be easier for you to take on.
Lie in a comfortable position on your stomach or back.
Picture the most soothing color you can think of.
You can play with the shade of the color in your mind until just the thought of the color calms you.
If you tend to be hot (hint: menopausal women, pay attention), choose a cooling color, like a deep blue or purple.
Starting at the very bottom of your foot (an acupuncture point we call Kidney 1), picture the color entering your body.
With every inhale, pull the color higher into your body. With every exhale, picture the color dispersing throughout all the surrounding tissue – muscle, fascia, fat, skin, bone, blood.
Feel the fibers of your tissues relax as the color innervates them.
As you breathe in, pull the color into your feet.
As you breathe out, feel the color pulsing through the bones and tissues of your foot. Feel it in your heels, your ankles, your toes.
As you breathe in, pull the color up your calves.
As you breathe out, feel the color spreading throughout your lower leg, and feel the tissues relax.
As you breathe in, pull the color into your knees.
As you breathe out, feel the color searching – and finding – all the spaces between the bones of the knee, feel it pushing its way through your tendons, your muscles, your joints.
As you breathe in, pull the color up into your thighs.
As you breathe out, feel the color spreading throughout your upper legs. Feel it pushing its way in between your cells, creating space where before there was tension. Feel your muscles loosen as the color touches them, feel them fall away from the bones.
As you breathe in, pull the color into your hips.
As you breathe out, feel the color spread throughout the joints of the hip.
Feel it moisten the soreness in the joints, relax the fibers of the muscles, open the hips.
As you breathe in, feel the color enter your pelvis, feel it swirling behind your pubic bone.
As you breathe out, feel all the muscles of your pelvic girdle relax, feel the tension you carry there melt away.
As you breathe in, pull the color up to your core – bring your awareness to its presence right behind your belly button.
As you breathe out, picture the color moving in between your internal organs, entering them, creating space in between the cells, helping them function without tension, fear, or pain.
Feel the color. Perhaps it feels warm, or cool, or moist.
As you breathe in, pull the color up into your ribcage.
As you breathe out, feel the color extending along each rib, along the space in between the ribs. Feel it lengthen the tiny muscles, release all tension, create space in between the bones where before there was only tightness.
As you breathe in, pull the color into the center of your chest.
As you breathe out, feel it in your heart, your lungs. Feel the color innervate the tissues of these organs. Feel that you can actually take a deep breath now that the color is in your lungs. Feel the strength of your heart in your chest, beating with the compassion of your color.
As you breathe in, feel the color enter your spine, behind your lungs and heart.
As you breathe out, watch as the color spreads out to relax the muscles between your shoulder blades, and feel the space widen.
As you breathe in, pull the color up to the base of your throat.
As you breathe out, feel all the tension in these muscles, in your vocal chords, melt away.
Now as you breathe in, let the color flow across the tops of your shoulders.
As you breathe out, feel the color widen the space between your collar bone and your neck.
As you breathe in, pull the color down both of your arms, first through the upper arm, then the elbow, then the forearm.
As you breathe out, feel all tension melt away as the color spreads through your tissues.
Now pull the color into your hands, your hands that work so hard on everything you do. Feel the color swirling in your palms, and feel its pure energy, its ability to relax every fiber of your being.
As you breathe in, pull the color into all your fingers, feel it spread out along the bones of your fingers, the tiny muscles, and fibers of your skin.
As you breathe out, feel the color shoot out of the ends of all your fingers, carrying with it all the tension it has accumulated so far on its journey through your body.
Now bring your attention back to the base of your throat, where the color continues to pool, to relax, to carry away all stress and accumulated tension.
As you breathe in, pull the color up through your neck.
As you breathe out, feel the color move gracefully through the many muscles of the neck, feel it enter the cervical spine, feel it push its way in between the vertebrae, creating space that wasn’t there before.
As you breathe in, draw your attention to the base of your skull, and pull the color there.
As you breathe out, feel it relax all the tiny muscles under your skull, feel it spread between the muscle fibers, feel it enter the cells themselves.
As you breathe in, pull the color up inside your skull.
As you breathe out, feel the color spreading out inside of your head.
Breathe in, and out, and feel this incredibly soothing color fill your head, feel it behind your cheekbones, behind your eyes, relaxing, smoothing, soothing, carrying away stress from all the places you hide it during the day.
Feel the color enter your jaw and force it to relax.
As you breathe in, feel the color reach the top most point of your head, acupuncture point Governing Vessel 20.
As you breathe out, feel the color shoot out from the top of your head, with a graceful force that seems to be the breath of life itself.
Feel it carry away all tension.
Picture yourself lying where you are, as someone else might see you.
Picture the gorgeous color being pulled into your body from the bottom of your feet, picture it shooting out in lines of light from your fingers and the top of your head.
Feel your breath circulate the color through your body.
Feel all tension slip away.
You may continue to lie in silence as long as you like.
When you are ready, you may open your eyes.