Tried and Tested Breathing and Muscle Relaxation Techniques

There are numerous techniques that can help you to become better at relaxing. Let’s begin with 3 of the tried and tested breathing and muscle relaxation techniques. All these techniques will become easier the more you practice them.

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Deep Breathing
The first time you try this technique try it lying down. Find somewhere quiet and safe where you can lie down and relax. Close your eyes and place your hands on your belly and practice slowly breathing in through your nose and slowly breathing out through your mouth. You should feel your belly rise and fall as you breathe. Many of us breathe much more shallowly so the movement we feel is at the top of our chest. With this technique we are learning to slowly fill our whole lungs. When you are comfortable with this technique you can then practice it sitting down or standing up. Whichever is most comfortable for you.

2 or 3 times a day spend 3 – 5 minutes slowly and deliberately breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Fill your whole lungs right to the bottom. The more you practice the more you will be able to lengthen and deepen your breath until you are able to breathe in for a count of 5 and breathe out for a count of 5.

5-Minute Meditation
There are lots and lots of evidence for the positive impact that meditation can have on our physical and mental health. One of the benefits of meditation it that it helps us to learn how to quiet our minds.

Practice this meditation daily for about 5 minutes. You might want to set yourself a timer.

Start by finding yourself somewhere safe and warm where you can sit and relax. Sit in a straight-backed chair or on the floor, with a straight spine and an alert and relaxed posture.

Close your eyes and begin by bringing your awareness to how your body is feeling right now, how does it feel sat here on the floor or on the chair?

Now begin to bring your awareness to your breath. Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose. Feel as the breath moves in and out of your body. Bring your focus to where the breath feels most alive to you: your nostrils as the air passes through, or the rise and fall of your belly or the contraction of your chest. Don’t try and change the breath or control it just observe the sensation as it moves in and out of your body.

When you find that your attention has wandered (as it will do many times) make a note of where it went and gently but clearly bring it back to your breath.

Finally bring your focus back to your whole body as it sits on the floor or on the chair. What sensation can you find as you scan through your body starting at the crown of your head and moving through to the tips of your toes?

Bring your practice to an end by opening your eyes.

Muscle Relaxation
We often, maybe without even noticing it, carry tension in different parts of our body. This technique will help you to identify where the tension is and help you to begin to relax those muscle groups. Allow yourself about 20 minutes.

Sit or lie somewhere comfortable where you feel warm and safe and where you won’t be disturbed.

Begin by closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. As with the exercise above breathe in through your nose and out through your nose. Focus on where in your body your breath feels most alive to you: your nostrils as the air passes through, or the rise and fall of your belly or the contraction of your chest.

Bring awareness to each part of the body, take a deep breath and visualise breathing fresh healing oxygen to that part of the body. If there is a particular area that is causing you discomfort or pain you may wish to spend more time breathing healing oxygen into it, and then relaxing the muscles.

Work through the different parts of your body repeating each exercise just once.

Face
Screw up your face really tight, clenching your teeth and tightening your jaw. Hold for 5 seconds and then relax.

Shoulders
Lift your shoulders up towards your ears, tighten the muscles. Hold for 5 seconds and then relax.

Arms
Tighten each arm in turn, lifting it slightly off the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and then relax letting the arm fall back to the floor feeling as if it is sinking into the carpet.

Hands
Make a fist with each of your hands in turn, hold the fist tight. Hold for 5 seconds and then allow it to relax.
Belly
Pull your belly in tight; see if you can get your belly button to touch your spine. Hold it for 5 seconds and then allow it to relax.

Buttocks
Clench your buttocks up tight. Hold for 5 seconds and then relax.

Legs
Lift your legs off the floor one at a time, tighten the muscles. Hold for 5 seconds and then relax, allowing the leg to fall back to the floor feeling as if it is sinking into the carpet.

Feet
Clench your toes up tight. Hold for 5 seconds and then relax.

Scan through your body again starting at the top of your head and working through to your toes. Spend time focusing on each part of the body. If you can still feel tension repeat the exercise, tightening and then relaxing your muscles.

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