Do you ever find yourself unconsciously holding your breath or tensing when you are exercising or trying to relax? This action can cause tension to build in your body and may lead to misalignment. Proper breathing provides oxygen to the muscles and the body. It helps you stay relaxed and centered. It even helps you maintain correct body alignment throughout the day.
This progressive relaxation exercise uses breathwork and is easy to learn. Try it when you feel anxious, stressed or can’t sleep. If there is time, try using it before or after your massage session or working out. Focus on taking full, deep, even, rhythmic breaths. With a little practice, you can become more aware of your own breathing patterns and use breathwork effectively as you move throughout your day.
Begin by lying in a comfortable position with your arms and legs outstretched. Focus on your breathing to create a slow, deep pattern. Inhale through your nose while counting to 5 and expanding your chest, rib cage and abdomen. Then exhale through your nose on the count of 5. Inhale and exhale in this pattern for ten times.
Tense your facial muscles as tightly as possible and count to five. Release the muscles completely and sense the muscles feeling heavy and still. Repeat the same sequence as you work down your entire body. After the face, proceed to the neck, chest, arms and hands, abdomen, back, thighs and gluteals, lower legs and feet.
After relaxing each set of muscles, mentally scan your body for any areas of remaining tension and ask those areas to relax completely.
Repeat the slow breathing exercise from step #1.
Gently begin to wiggle your toes and fingers to reawaken the body.
After a week or so, try combining muscle groups. For example, tense and relax the following parts together.
Face and neck
Arms and hands on both sides
Chest and back
Abdomen with thighs and gluteals
Lower legs and feet on both sides
After a while, stop using the tensing part of the exercise. Lie down and focus on different areas of the body. Breath deeply and relax the areas that feel tight.