News : what it is for and how to do it
Muscle relaxation has benefits that not only apply to the field of sports, as they go beyond relaxing muscles. It is about maintaining balance and preventing stress and anxiety situations, or fighting them if they arise.
To do this, it is convenient to be clear about what it is and find a useful technique according to personal circumstances and preferences. We review some of them below.
What is muscle relaxation
Technically, muscle relaxation is what occurs when the contraction of a muscle ends, so that the fibers return to their original position after the cessation of the nerve impulse.
The opposite of relaxation is tension, and this not only has an effect at the muscular level. Mental tension, or stress, is what happens when our body faces a challenge and prepares to act, producing a state of alteration.
Therefore, and joining both points of view, relaxation implies loosening muscle tone and clearing our mind to achieve full comfort. This is explained by the Academia Neurona, a Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Alzheimer’s and other dementias that also recalls that there are different techniques to achieve relaxation.
Benefits of muscle relaxation
The Neuron Academy reports the benefits of muscle relaxation and invites you to implement techniques to achieve it. It helps to rest and promotes sleep, promotes recovery after fatigue, prevents stress and reduces blood and emotional pressure. Therefore, generates a feeling of well-being and even helps improve self-esteem.
Muscle relaxation is an ally in our day to day because favors concentration, in addition to increasing our capacity to retain information and its retrieval. That is, the maintenance of memories. It is for this last reason that the organizations for the dissemination and support of Alzheimer’s patients and their families insist on its importance, since it also helps the good health of the caregivers.
Types of muscle relaxation
It is convenient to perform muscle relaxation exercises when we have been noticing feelings of anxiety or stress for days. Also if we have problems falling asleep or if we are going through a stage of loss or grief.
Below we review some natural muscle relaxation techniques, but it is necessary to distinguish this from drugs. The muscle relaxants are drugs that treat muscle spasms or cramps or spasticity, which is tightness or stiffness. They are often caused by muscle tension, and they cause pain.
It will be a doctor who prescribes the best muscle relaxant according to the situation and the patient’s condition, since the most powerful They are not available without a prescription. Examples include Yurelax or Robaxisal.
Having clarified the above, let’s see some useful progressive muscle relaxation techniques with which to combat some symptoms of stress or anxiety. Always without losing sight of the fact that it is advisable to visit a specialist if these episodes occur frequently or are prolonged in time.
Progressive muscle relaxation
As explained by the Pasqual Maragall Foundation, whose objective is to promote and support scientific research on Alzheimer’s, this technique was developed by the American Edmund Jacobson in 1938.
It targets tense and overactive muscles and targets them to loosen them. Although initially the proposal had more than 60 exercises, today the procedure has been synthesized and shortened to be able to implement it in everyday life situations. We will detail it later.
“Autogenous” means “that comes from within you.” It is a relaxation technique that uses visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress levels. Like the others, it takes a lot of practice.
In this technique we can include habitual exercises such as recreating a calm and relaxed environment with the mind, concentrating on that place and practicing controlled breathing that decreases the heart rate. It is also possible to focus on relaxing individual limbs: an arm, a leg, and so on.
The technique proposes the recreation of mental images through which to make a visual tour, putting the maximum possible senses: smell, sight, hearing and touch. It is advisable to be seated and comfortable (loosening clothing if it is tight), close your eyes and concentrate on breathing. With practice, intrusive thoughts that have nothing to do with our purpose are let go.
For example, you can imagine that you are walking along a riverside promenade. Imagine that you can smell the grass, that you hear the murmur of the water descending on the rocks at the bottom, and also the sound of the leaves of the trees moved by the wind. Feel how those gusts of air move your hair and how the rays of the sun give you.
It is known because it is a simple technique to execute, then it can be the ideal to start in relaxation. As in the others, you should also be sitting in a comfortable place and avoid feeling the usual pressure of clothing on the abdomen.
It involves placing one hand on the chest and the other on the belly and breathing slowly and deeply, lengthening as much as possible. You should focus and notice your hands rising and falling as the chest and belly rise, filling with air before expelling it.
The massages consist of pressing, rubbing and striking rhythmically and with just the right intensity the region of the body being worked on. It has various purposes, such as therapeutic or sports, and is usually executed by a professional who knows the proper technique to be effective.
But in a moment of tension it can be useful to know how to practice a therapeutic self-massage, which will also consist of varying friction, rubbing and kneading to release accumulated tension.
It is considered one of the most effective techniques because it trains the mind to induce a specific state of consciousness for a specific purpose. In this case, it is about relaxing to release tension, stress or fear.
Meditation is associated with the religious and the spiritual, so that it is practiced by followers of Buddhism, Hinduism or Christianity, among others. To start practicing it, a proposal is to focus on an object, which will help to maintain focus.
Tai chi, or tai chi, is a martial art of Chinese origin that is based on slow movements, following the rhythm of breathing. It is also known as moving meditation, and not only serves to lower stress and anxiety levels, it also improves flexibility. In short, it improves mind-body balance.
That of “yoga” is a very broad concept because it not only encompasses the practices of the asanas or body postures that work the body and mind. Those who practice them insist that it is about seeking the union of mind, body and soul (the inner essence in a less religious conception). It requires more practice for its total mastery, but its benefits are such that it is gaining more and more followers.
Mastering one of several styles of yoga at different levels will not only help you to handle a stressful situation in situ, but to prevent it from happening. And it is the yoga that helps implement a new lifestyle.
This technique pursues the ambitious goal of learning to control some bodily functions, for example, heart rate. Therefore, devices such as electrical sensors are needed that provide information about your body, in addition to the supervision of a specialist.
There are different types, from the aforementioned heart rate to temperature, as well as brain waves, respiration, muscle contraction, and sweat glands. The therapist will connect sensors to different parts of the body, and will inform you with beeps and lights to help you modify and control physiological reactions. It is a non-invasive technique, but it also requires practice (and money, since it is guided by specialists).
Music therapy or art therapy
Music therapy and art therapies consist of using the elements of the creative process (sound, rhythm, harmony and melody in the case of music) to explore thoughts and emotions. In this way, intrapersonal and interpersonal communication, learning, movement and expression are facilitated to satisfy physical, emotional, mental, social or cognitive needs.
Aromatherapy is one of alternative therapies or complementary medicine. It consists of the use of aromatic plants and other natural ingredients like flowers, seeds, fruits and, of course, essential oils. It focuses on the sense of smell to connect with instinct, humor and emotions, in order to relax.
It is a healing method that focuses on use of water as a therapeutic element to treat some diseases. It is carried out in spas and is considered a technique as old as mankind, as it was already used in ancient Greece for various purposes.
Some of the techniques discussed are not treatments aimed at alleviating a situation of tension, stress or anxiety, but they work in the long term and also help to prevent them through the search for balance between body-mind-emotions.
Best muscle relaxation exercises
The best muscle relaxation exercise will depend on the circumstances and needs of each person. In children and young people, for example, the Koeppen muscle relaxation for anxiety control. For them it is games, but exercising due control they will relax different groups throughout their body.
As for adults, we detail below the exercises framed within the progressive muscle relaxation, following the guide provided by the aforementioned Pasqual Maragall Foundation.
The phases of Jakobson’s relaxation are as follows:
First: from tension to relaxation
It involves tensing and relaxing different muscles in periods of about 10 to 15 seconds. It should be done by connected muscle groups, so we detail:
- Face. Frown and relax, close your eyes tightly and loosen up. As for the mouth, work the pressure on the lips and teeth, and then leave it ajar.
- Neck and shoulders. Lower your head towards your neck to feel the tension in the back, and return to the starting point. Arch your back back to feel the tension in your back, and return to the original position. Clench your fists and loosen.
- Abdomen. Contract your abdomen as if you wanted to fasten pants that are too small for you, and then relax.
- Legs. Stretch them and lift one and then the other. As you do this, you should feel the tension in your glutes, thigh, knee, calf, and foot, including your toes (you should move them back and forth). Then rest, relax, and proceed with the other foot.
Second: review of muscle groups
This second phase is more focused on meditation, as it invites you to do a body scan: review the different muscle groups and focus on them to check that they are relaxed. It will probably be easier for you if you are sitting down and lying down, depending on the exercise, and especially in the first few times.
Third: mental relaxation
After the transition phase, it is about immersing the consciousness in a state of total calm. For this, the evocation of images is useful, such as the walk along the river that we were talking about or lying on the beach. The idea is to spend a few minutes concentrating on the sensations that this place generates in you.
In short, muscle relaxation is a technique not only aimed at loosening the muscles, but also the mind. The objective is to rediscover balance in a situation of stress, anxiety or fear, so learning one of the aforementioned modalities can be very useful on a day-to-day basis. However, undertaking regular activities such as tai chi or yoga, among others, will serve not only to face such situations once they occur, but to prevent them and find well-being.