How to Relax, Part II: Exercises

Relaxation is more than just taking time off. To let your mind and body rest, you must actively take steps to relax. If you take the time to rest and practice these two exercises, you can improve your concentration and decrease your stress immediately.

Relaxing Takes Place in Your Body

Relaxing happens in your body. Most people believe that relaxing is a state of mind. But the body is the key to actually relaxing. Most of us, especially leading up to the bar exam, walk around carrying much more tension than is necessary to move through the world. In short, we brace our bodies all day. We breathe shallowly and hold in our stomachs and chests. We tap our feet or move our hands, or tense our shoulders. Next time you are trying to fall asleep, notice whether you are clenching your eyes or your face.

To truly relax, we have to learn to find the places that we tense and stop tensing them. We have to let go in our bodies, breathe deeper, and let ourselves melt into the chair or the ground.

Next time you want to relax, start with one or both of these two exercises.

Chair Relaxation Exercise

1. Sit in a chair, without leaning against the back, and start to rock your pelvis forward and backward tilting it forward so that you back is arched, then tilting it backward so that your back is rounded.

2. Keep rocking your pelvis until you find neutral – that place between tilted back and tilted forward, where you feel like you are sitting up in a balanced and easy way.

3. Now picture your skeleton sitting in the chair. Imagine how your bones look.

4. Now let your skeleton hold you up. Picture your muscles letting go and draping on your bones so that it’s actually the chair and your skeleton holding you up, not your muscles.

5. Feel your muscles actually let go and feel yourself melt into the chair. Notice how much you were tensing before to sit, and how little effort you actually need to sit there in the chair.

6. This is the beginning of actually relaxing.

Lying on the Floor Exercise

This is one of my favorite exercises for bar students. If you find yourself tense during the day, try this for 5-10 minutes twice a day.

1. Lie flat on the floor on your back with no pillow.

2. Start to notice your breathing, without altering it. Notice the shapes that happen in your chest as you breathe in and out.

3. Do nothing.

4. Let your entire body melt into the ground, as if your muscles and skin were literally able to melt from your bones.

5. Notice any places where you are clenching. Relax your eyes, face, tongue, neck, shoulders, and so forth.

6. Let the ground hold you up. You do not need to do anything or put in any effort, the ground has you right now.

7. When you notice thoughts come into your mind, simply notice them, and turn your attention back to your breath and your body and tell yourself “Let go.”

8. It’s useful to set a timer for 5-10 minutes, so that you do not have to check the clock.

Taking the time to do these 2 exercises regularly can improve your study quality and concentration, and help to prevent burnout.

Lauren Fire is the founder of the Mind Over Bar Course, an innovative course that focuses only on the mental challenges of the bar exam. The course teaches in-the-moment practices you can use to deal with any mental challenge and rock the bar exam.