Self-Compassion: Combining Compassion & Relaxation

by dena on July 24, 2014

You are invited to experience a simple relaxation exercise combining compassion, gratitude, and body awareness. I call it a Body Gratitude Relaxation.

Whether much of your current stress stems from everyday life or if there are extra circumstances weighing heavily, such as loss or illness or a difficult family situation, I feel it is important to find multiple ways to decrease stress, to increase calmness.

I am writing this exercise in much the same way that I speak it when leading a group of people in the Body Gratitude exercise at retreat centers and during telephone meditation classes. I speak my phrases slowly, and I leave pauses between mentioning different areas of the body. My wording has been slightly different each time I speak it. Today is my first adventure in writing it.

This relaxation involves movement. The degree of movement is up to you. Notice what motions your bodybeing wants to express in each moment. It can be done standing, sitting, or reclining, or you might find yourself using any combination of these options.

Once you have read this post, you can do this exercise for yourself, using whatever wording feels best to you.

stretching_woman_free pic_1

  • First, estimate what your stress level is right now. Use a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 as lowest and 10 as highest amount of stress. This is so you have a baseline at the end of the exercise, to see if there is any change.
  • Focusing on the feet and ankles, we can find ways to move them for a few moments. We can wiggle toes, rotate ankle joints, massage feet, or walk slowly while observing the sensations of these actions. All the while, we can send gratitude to the feet. “Thank you for all the ways you support me.”
  • Bring awareness to the lower legs, expressing appreciation to them for all they do. Play with tensing and releasing these muscles a few times. Notice how the calves feel.
  • Now, we come to the knees. Thank the knees for being themselves. Gently massage them, flex and extend these joints, or feel them as you walk quietly around your space.
  • Next, we focus on the thighs. While moving and/or touching them and experiencing the sensations of their muscles, send messages of gratitude and love.
  • Welcome the hips into your sense of thankfulness and compassion. Observe how they feel as they move. You might shift your weight from one leg  to the other a few times. Find gentle ways to let the hip joints sway.
  • Now, invite the torso and all its organ systems into your awareness. Place your hands on the torso, bend or slightly twist at the waist. Send deep gratitude and compassion for all the actions that occur through our organs, ribs, muscles, and all the rest.
  • Tune into the spine. Extend appreciation to the spine for all of its supporting actions and nervous system connections. Let the spine have a dance of undulating, moving side to side, twisting, bending.
  • Now, welcome the whole neck, which includes the top of the spine. While thanking the neck, add some self-massage and careful stretching. “Thank you, neck.”
  • Let your focus be on the whole head. Speak appreciation as you touch each part of your head: ears, eyes, nose, mouth, forehead, chin, cheeks, jaws, hair, cranium. Thank the tongue, teeth, gums, ability to swallow. Thank the brain, thank the whole nervous system.
  • Next, notice the shoulders. Tell them they are wonderful and appreciated. Raise and lower them, use slow motions as you roll them forward and then backward.
  • Be aware now of the arms and hands, thanking them for all they do. Lift and lower the arms, move them in front and behind you, bend and extend the elbow joints, move the wrists, curl and uncurl fingers and thumbs, rub palms together. Pretend you are applying hand lotion. Let the arms follow their own dance.
  • Use the arms to embrace yourself. Thank your whole bodybeing, each and every cell. Notice whether your body wants to move or to be still right now. Allow yourself to bask in the gratitude and compassion you have evoked in this relaxation exercise.

Remember the amount of stress you estimated before this exercise began? Ask yourself again. If there is any difference, did the number increase or decrease?

I am hoping you feel calmer. I am hoping we will all create more times and actions to bring more self-compassion and relaxation into our daily lives.


I welcome you to find out about my telephone meditation classes . They are held 3 different times weekly.


Blissings, Dena

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