Calming exercise or motions and controlled breathing can have dramatic stress and tension-reducing effects. Maintaining flexibility by stretching routines can enhance balance and reduce injuries. Yoga, Tai Chi, abdominal breathing and Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) are among many techniques that have been used successfully to deal with the effects of stress and generally improve health.
Function; Why it is RecommendedTai Chi Chuan (Tai Chi)
stimulates the central nervous system
, lowers blood pressure, relieves stress, and gently tones muscles without strain. It also enhances digestion, elimination of wastes and the circulation of blood. Moreover, tai chi's rhythmic movements massage the internal organs and improve their functionality. Perhaps tai chi's greatest attribute, however, is the fact that it channels the flow of chi (intrinsic energy) through the body's meridians. According to traditional Chinese medicine
, as long as this flow is uninhibited, a person will remain healthy. If the flow of chi becomes obstructed or unbalanced, illness will result.Abdominal Breathing.
Some of the benefits of abdominal breathing include increased oxygen supply to the brain and musculature and stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system
. This branch of your autonomic nervous system promotes a state of calmness and quiescence. It works in a fashion exactly opposite to the sympathetic branch of your nervous system, which stimulates a state of emotional arousal and the very physiological reactions underlying a panic attack
. There is a greater sense of connectedness between mind and body. While anxiety
and worry tend to keep you "up in your head", a few minutes of deep abdominal
breathing will help bring you down into your whole body.Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR).
Edmund Jacobson developed this technique in the 1920s-40s. He believed that if a person could learn enough skeletal muscle
control that they could promptly relax the muscle from a tense state, it would greatly reduce the ensuing stress response. In other words, a person might be able to stop the vicious cycle of stress by intervening during the muscle-tensing stage.Yoga
is a collection of postures and breathing techniques that can be done at any age, in any state of health, and anywhere. The many claimed physical benefits of yoga include:
- improved flexibility and muscle joint mobility
- strengthened, toned, and increased musculature
- improved posture and strengthened spine
- improved muscular/skeletal conditions such as back pain, bad knees, tight shoulders and neck, swayback and scoliosis
- improved stamina and balance
- stimulation of the glands of the endocrine system
- improved digestion and elimination
- increased circulation, and can be particularly beneficial for varicose veins.
- improvement of heart conditions and breathing disorders
- better immune response
- decreased cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- easier weight loss
- increased body awareness
- relief of chronic stress patterns in the body
- relief of muscle strain which in turn refreshes the body
- relaxation of the mind and body
- more centered attention and sharpened concentration.
To the beginner, yoga
can present a bewildering array of schools, traditions and claims. If you are young and in great condition, power yoga might be just what you're looking for. Hatha yoga is more for those who are interested only in the physical benefits of yoga. When looking for a class, ask questions that reflect your level of interest and abilities. Ask the instructor how difficult the class is and inform them of any disabilities you have.Calming Breath Technique
Here is one training technique that people have found useful when faced with a stressful situation or when feeling threatened: it is very useful in helping one remain calm and relaxed and is presented in three easy steps. Start with the first step, until you've mastered it, then progress to the next step. Once you have reached the third step, you will have learned the Calming Breath Technique. Once steps 1 and 2 are learned, step 3 is the exercise that is used daily or in times of stress.Preparation
Wear loose-fitting attire, if opportunity allows, so that you are comfortable. Make sure that you can breathe through your nose. If you have a cold, do not practice this exercise until you can breathe clearly.Step One
Lie flat on your back. Put one hand on your stomach, and the other hand on your chest. Relax. Inhale so that the hand on your stomach rises, while the hand on your chest is still. Exhale so that the hand on your stomach goes down again, and the hand on your chest remains still. Repeat for 5 breaths.
Now, when you inhale, breathe in so that the hand on your chest rises, while the hand on your stomach is still. Exhale so that the hand on your chest goes down again, while the hand on your stomach remains still. Repeat for 5 breaths. Alternate between stomach and chest breathing for 5 minutes. Make sure you've mastered this step before moving on.Step Two
This step combines stomach and chest breathing into one breath. This is the Calming Breath. Lie flat on your back. Put one hand on your stomach, and the other hand on your chest. Relax.
Begin by stomach breathing. When you feel you can't inhale any more in this manner, switch to chest breathing, until the upper part of your lungs
are filled. Then exhale by chest breathing first, progressing to stomach breathing so that you empty the lungs fully. Repeat for 5 minutes.
Breathe slowly. If you feel dizzy, slow down, you are breathing too fast. If you are out of breath, you are breathing too slowly. Listen to your own body's messages. If you are having difficulty distinguishing chest breathing from stomach breathing, go back to Step One.Step Three
Stand or sit with your back straight. Use the Calming Breath and follow this pattern. You will have to count the rhythm in your head. Count to 4 while inhaling, hold your breath and count to 4, then count to 4 while exhaling. Once you've mastered this you may use a 4-4-4-4 rhythm if you prefer. It adds and extra step of holding your breath after exhaling and counting to 4. Take care not to hold your breath too long. Again, listen to your body. Repeat for 5 minutes, or until you are calm.
Practice so that the Calming Breath Technique becomes effortless, and inaudible. This technique can be used in almost any setting.PMR
is accomplished by intentional tension/relaxation routines. Tense specific muscles/muscle groups, then specifically relax them. Move on to the next muscle/group. This can initiate the relaxation response, induce sleep and reduce muscle pain.