These days, it seems, we’re all more familiar with feeling stressed than with feeling calm. Luckily for us, we’re designed to relax. The breath is our route to relaxation, and our senses help to personalize the process. The heart lifts slightly when we inhale and drops slightly when we exhale. Because it is the only muscle in the body that never stops working, it has to have built-in breaks. Exhalations are the heart’s resting phases. When we breathe fully, particularly allowing our exhalations to lengthen, we elicit the “relaxation response.” Use the following guided meditation script in class to lead the way for participants.

Stress-free Guided Meditation Script

“As you exhale, allow each and every place where your body is touching the mat to release into the floor. Feel as if your body is being cradled at your heels . . . your thighs . . . your buttocks . . . your shoulder blades . . . and the back of your head. As you inhale, breathe in energy. Feel this energy and lightness circulating through your toes and the tops of your feet . . . through the soles of your feet and your ankles. Inhale deeply, feeling this lightness move up through your lower legs, inside out.

Feel it pass through the center of your knees into your thighs and pelvis. On your next exhalation, release tension from your pelvic area. Imagine you are filling your pelvic bowl with your breath as you inhale. Feel your pelvis and lower back sink into the mat as you exhale. Now feel as if everything below your waist is floating downstream, gently rocking, releasing tension and fatigue.

Experience lightness rising up into your trunk area, circulating through your internal organs . . . your back muscles . . . all the way through your shoulders . . . your upper arms . . . your elbows . . . your lower arms . . . and your fingers. This lightness pervades your neck muscles . . . your jaw . . . your cheeks . . . and your forehead. Imagine everything above your waist is gently rocking upstream so that your shoulder blades and the back of your head melt into the mat.

“Now imagine you are breathing with your whole body, top to bottom, inside out. Breathe in energy, vitality. Exhale tension, fatigue, deep fatigue. Know that whenever you need to, you can inhale and fill with energy. And in any moment you can let go simply by exhaling. Gently draw your knees to your chest and roll over to one side. Using your arm strength, push yourself up to a seated position.

“Now, how would you rate your stress level on a 1-10 scale? Do you feel relaxed yet ready to meet whatever responsibilities or challenges may lie ahead today? Relaxation reinforces responsiveness. Think of a cat lying around who bounds into action when necessary.”