The art of relaxation
So the exams are over for another year. Goodbye hours spent indoors studying, hello lazy days in the sunshine (the unpredictable British weather permitting, of course).
Now, you would think it is very easy to relax after you have finished your exams. You finish your last one, head out into the outdoors and taste a little bit of freedom. Bliss.
However, some people – after months of sticking to a rather regimented revision timetable – find it difficult to return to their normal student ways. It wasn’t that long ago that I finished my final set of exams and I remember being slightly unnerved by the lack of structure to my days. Yes, I know most of you will be wondering what an earth I am talking about, but for those of you that have forgotten the art of relaxation, here are a few pointers to ease you back in gently.
• There are many different activities you can do to aid relaxation. The explosion of disciplines from China and India are testament to that. T’ai chi is one of the most popular and dates back to 400BC. It is a series of slow, flowing postures combined with breathing exercises which aim to harmonise mind and body, which gradually improves the flow of ‘chi’, or energy, through the body. It is the mind’s focus on the slow and deliberate movements that helps relax the body. And although it is a martial art, participants say it is far removed from the typical perception of that type of exercise, and in fact helps to keep the mind calm. For more information visit www.taichiunion.com.
• Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that has been practised for thousands of years. It is similar to T’ai chi because it focuses on the flow of energy through the body. It works on the principal that symptoms of illness are signs of a disruption in the flow of energy and therefore fine needles are inserted into specific points on the body to help restore this energy flow. Acupuncture has many benefits for overall health but is well-known for helping patients who are feeling the effects of stress. Go to the British Acupuncture Council’s website to find out more, acupuncture.org.uk.
• Of course yoga is one of the most well-known ways of escaping from the stresses and strains of modern living and escaping into a world of relaxation for an hour or two. Yoga is a 5,000-year-old discipline but has soared in popularity in recent years due to its ability to adapt to the needs of many different types of people. It also has many celebrity devotees like Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow who attest to its health benefits. Iyengar yoga is the most widely practised yoga, as it is slow, suitable for all ages and abilities and uses props like blocks to achieve the more difficult poses. Some people use yoga as a relaxation tool, others to improve flexibility and fitness and others take the opportunity to learn how to meditate. The British Wheel of Yoga has lots of information about the practise of yoga on its website, bwy.org.uk.
• Taking up an extreme sport may seem an unlikely way to try and relax, however many people who are not comfortable practising slower, more controlled fitness regimes may find kite surfing or rock climbing a good release. It seems that hardly a week goes by without another bizarre sport being invented in a quest to find the most thrilling pastime. The trend now is to fuse different sports together. For example,
speedminton is a hybrid of tennis, badminton and squash and is played with a shuttlecock that reaches speeds of up to 175 mph. There is no court, no rules and no limits, so you can choose to have a relaxed game at the beach or opt for an adrenaline-charged volley in total darkness. Want to try it? Go to speedminton.co.uk for more details.
• Team sports can also be a good way of letting your hair down. Rounders is currently undergoing a national resurgence, with teams popping up all over the country. In the past 12 months alone more than 300 people have qualified as coaches for the sport. There’s a World Cup planned for 2008 with England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland already signed up and organisers are hopeful that Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will also join in the fun. Go to nra-rounders.co.uk to find out more.
• Alternatively, if running around a field trying to unleash your inner child isn’t for you, then you could always try a good old pamper day. Whether you can afford to treat yourself at a top spa and get the professionals to give you treatments all day or decide to go down the DIY route and raid your bathroom cabinet, you are guaranteed to feel ten times better afterwards and your body will thank you for giving it a little TLC. And yes, that does include the boys too.