exercises are useful techniques to help relieve tension, decrease
worry, improve sleep, and make you feel generally more at
ease. These exercises use physical and mental activities,
which focus attention on calming the body and mind, creating
feelings of comfort.
Provided are descriptions of different relaxation exercises.
You should choose a form that is most comfortable for you.
It is a good idea to try each and decide which you like best.
All relaxation should begin with relaxed breathing. This will
help prepare you for deeper relaxation. Once you master relaxed
breathing, you can continue to add other relaxation exercises
to your routine.
Relaxed (Diaphragmatic) Breathing
Since breathing is second nature to us, we rarely think about
the way that we breathe. Learning to breathe abdominally (through
the diaphragm) can promote relaxation, which improves physical
and mental health. Over time, most people begin to breathe
by moving their chest and/or shoulders. However, if you watch
a baby breathe, you will see that they breathe by moving their
belly, which is the most efficient way to take in oxygen and
remove carbon dioxide with the least effort. The diaphragm
is the muscle that controls breathing. It is a dome-shaped
muscle that sits beneath the lungs, above the abdominal cavity.
When a breath is taken, the diaphragm flattens out, allowing
the lungs more room to expand with air. When air is exhaled
from the lungs, the diaphragm returns to its domed shape.
Though breathing is an automatic function, the movements of
the diaphragm can be controlled voluntarily with training.
Learning how to control the diaphragm and the way we breathe
can be beneficial in many ways:
The best way to begin relaxed breathing is lying down on your
back. Once you are comfortable breathing in this position,
you can then try it sitting and standing.
the most efficient exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide
with the least effort
waste products from the blood
down heart rate and breathing rate
a comfortable place and lie down on your back, or sit
in a chair.
in through your nose slowly, in a natural, gentle way.
the same time that you take in each breath, gently expand
your belly to fill with air. Keep your shoulders and chest
as still as possible. Imagine that you are filling a small
balloon inside your belly with air each time you inhale.
out through your mouth, emptying your belly and letting
it relax. As you breathe out, purse your lips to create
a little resistance to the exhale to keep it slow, like
gently blowing on a candle to make it flicker. Breathe
out as slowly as you can, making each exhale last.
you finish your exhale, wait quietly until your body naturally
takes its next breath. Take your time.
time you breathe in, imagine a balloon filling with air,
and each time you breathe out, imagine the balloon deflating.
may help to put one hand on your stomach (over your belly
button) and one hand on your breastbone. Watch to see
which hand is moving more when you breathe in and out.
Try to get the hand on your stomach to move more as you
breathe, without forcing it.
sure to breathe in a slow, gentle, and natural way. If
you become dizzy or light-headed, take smaller breaths
and slow down.
should practice diaphragmatic breathing frequently for short
periods of time. At first, maybe 10-15 times per day for 1-2
minutes each time. Try to practice in different situations,
such as lying down, sitting, standing, on a bus/subway. With
practice, relaxed breathing can become a quick and easy tool
to combat stress.
tightness/tension is the body's signal that we are under stress.
When we experience stress for prolonged periods of time, we
may develop chronic tension in our shoulders, back, head,
or other areas of our bodies. However, because we are so focused
on external concerns, most of us are not usually aware of
the tension in our bodies, unless it becomes painful.
Learning to relax your body not only helps prevent muscle
tension from turning to pain, but can calm you mentally as
well. Muscle relaxation trains you to be aware of tension
in your body and control tight muscles that respond to stress.
Relaxing your muscles is a skill that takes practice, but
once you know how to do it, you can use it to reduce your
emotional and bodily tension quickly and easily.
There are two types of muscle relaxation: Passive relaxation
involves relaxing different muscle groups by thinking about
them, while progressive muscle relaxation allows you to focus
on and relax your muscles by first tensing them, which automatically
forces your muscles to relax. The following is a relaxation
exercise that you can use to relax the muscles in your body.
You may want to have someone else read it to you, or you can
tape yourself reading it, so that you can concentrate on relaxing.
by getting into a comfortable position and closing your
eyes. Use some relaxed breathing to calm yourself. Take
about 4 slow, deep breaths.
your whole face. Start with your jaw and tongue. Are you
clenching your teeth? Are you pressing with your tongue?
Let all the muscles of your jaw and tongue relax. Allow
your teeth to be slightly parted in a natural, unforced
way. Your tongue should be loose inside your mouth, resting
against the back of your teeth. Next, pay attention to
your eyes and forehead. Make sure that you are not squeezing
your eyes shut or furrowing your eyebrows. Let your eyes
close so that your eyelids barely touch. Your whole face
is completely relaxed.
relax your shoulders. Let go of all of the tension in
your shoulders and let them drop. Let any feelings of
tension in your neck flow away. Let your shoulders and
neck muscles sink into a pleasant state of comfortable
your arms, hands, and fingers. Are you flexing a muscle?
Are you gripping anything with your hands? Let your arms
feel heavy and relaxed, like a floppy rag doll.
any feelings of tension in your back, chest, or abdomen
dissolve and flow away. Let yourself become more and more
limp and relaxed with every breath you take.
your legs, feet and toes. Let go of any tension from your
legs. Let your leg muscles sink into a deeper and deeper
state of pleasant comfort. Make sure you are not pressing
your feet or toes. Let your feet and toes become completely
For the next minute or so, let your entire body become more and more relaxed. Enjoy this feeling of comfort and relaxation, and when you are ready, open your eyes slowly and remain quiet for another moment or two.
Imagery, or visualization, is a technique that uses your imagination
to create mental pictures. It is used to focus your mind on
something pleasant and comforting in order to ease stress
and anxiety, and reduce muscle tension and pain. Imagery incorporates
all of your 5 senses sight, smell, hearing, taste,
and touch. You should try to practice visualization 1-2 times
per day until it becomes natural for you. If you are a very
visual person, this may only take a few practice sessions.
For others, you may need to practice for a couple of weeks
before you feel comfortable with it. The easiest way to practice
imagery is in bed in the morning when you wake up and at night
before you go to sleep. With practice, you will be able to
go to your special place just by closing your eyes. Try it
using the following exercise.
To begin, lie down, get comfortable, and close your eyes.
Use some relaxed breathing to calm yourself. Take about 4
slow, deep breaths.
Now, picture yourself in a quiet, special place. A place that
is very beautiful and feels peaceful and safe. You are all
by yourself and feel totally relaxed, safe, and at peace in
this quiet, special place. It can be a place in nature, such
as a beach...a lake...a forest...a field... a mountain. Or
it can be somewhere else, like a garden...a church...a favorite
room...somewhere you have been in the past.
Picture yourself in this quiet, special place as vividly as
you can, using all of your senses. Look around. Notice what
you see. The colors...shapes...what the light is like. Perhaps
the blue of the sky, or the reflection of the light upon the
water. Notice what you see in your special place.
Notice the sounds, what you hear. Perhaps the lapping of water
against the shore, or the sound of wind rustling in the leaves.
Listen to the sounds in your quiet, special place.
Notice the smells in the air. Perhaps the smell of the salt
water...or the fresh clean smell of country air...or the smell
of pine needles in the forest. Notice the smells.
Feel how warm, or cool the air is against your skin. And picture
where you are. Are you lying down? ...sitting?...leaning against
Use all of your senses to make this special place as vivid
and real as you can. Memorize the smells, sounds, and sights.
Continue to enjoy being in your special place for a minute
or two longer. Allow yourself to relax even more deeply. Remind
yourself that you can come back and relax here whenever you
want. When you are ready, open your eyes slowly and continue
to remain still and enjoy your relaxation for another moment