Health Action: Relaxation Exercises

When you are under stress, your muscles tighten, your heart beats more rapidly, and your breathing becomes fast and shallow. A good way to relax both mind and body is to learn simple relaxation routines that slow down your body’s stress responses. Two simple techniques are shown here. For further information, ask your doctor about relaxation classes.

Breathing techniques

Controlled breathing, which uses the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles, is the basis of all relaxation methods. To prepare for abdominal breathing exercises, you should wear loose clothing and try to find a quiet spot away from distractions. Sit or lie in a comfortable position.

Put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your abdomen. Inhale slowly, hold your breath for a moment, then exhale slowly. Try to breathe using your abdominal muscles so that the lower hand moves more than the upper hand.

Once you are breathing from your abdomen, place your hands just below your ribs. Feel your hands move as your abdomen rises and falls.

Muscle relaxation

For muscle relaxation exercises, wear comfortable clothing and lie on a bed or on the floor. Put your arms by your sides and let your feet fall open. Tense and relax each part of your body in turn. During the exercise, keep your eyes closed. Breathe slowly using your abdominal muscles.

Begin by taking one or two slow, deep breaths. Focus on your breathing. Starting with your feet, tense the muscles in each part of your body, hold for a count of three, then release the tension.

When you have finished, lie still for a few moments, then roll onto your side. Support your body with your arms and knees. After a few minutes, open your eyes and get up slowly.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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