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Being relaxed is not the same as kicking your shoes off, lying on the sofa and having a drink

Learning deep relaxation and breathing exercises can reduce the amount of adrenaline in your blood stream and is very beneficial. Nine out of ten people who tried deep relaxation in hospital after a heart attack said that they would definitely recommend it to other people.

Benefits of relaxation

Learning deep relaxation and better breathing can help you to:

  • Sleep better
  • Have more energy
  • Have better concentration
  • Experience fewer aches and pains
  • Keep cool in difficult situations
  • Cope with stress
  • Improve your immune system
  • Feel calm and peaceful
Marie Young - Psychologist, talks about using relaxation to manage stress and anxiety

Are you relaxed?

We all have parts of our body that carry tension.
Try this quick test to see where you have yours.

CHECK YOUR FOREHEAD
Is it creased and frowning? Or smooth and relaxed? Push your eyebrows up then let them fall into a relaxed position.
RELAX YOUR JAW
Move your attention to your jaw. Are your teeth tightly clenched? Let them come apart without opening your mouth. Feel your jaw muscle. Is it hard or relaxed. Let it go.
RELAX YOUR TONGUE
Is your tongue pressed up against your front top teeth? Let it lie on the floor of your mouth.
DROP YOUR SHOULDERS
Are your shoulders up round your ears or relaxed? Push them up and then let them fall down relaxed.
SLOW DEEP BREATHS
Check your breathing. Is it from your chest or from your stomach? Is it rapid or slow with full out breaths?
RELAX YOUR HANDS
Are your hands clenched like fists ready for a fight or floppy and relaxed?
RELAX YOUR TOES
Are your toes curled up tight or relaxed?

Remember this:

How we breathe: “Chest is not best”

Surprisingly, many of us don’t breathe properly. We breathe using our chest muscles instead of our stomach muscles. Think of a little baby lying on its back asleep. It is a baby’s tummy not the shoulders or chest that move.

Once we all breathed like that, but stress, illness and loss of muscle means that as we get older we often start to breathe with our chest and take short, shallow breaths. We use our chest muscles and shoulders to suck in air. We do this naturally when we are scared, in pain or exercising hard.

At those times it helps, because it floods our body and brain with extra oxygen and speeds up our heart.

Relaxation techniques

It takes 20 minutes a day, every day for about six to 12 weeks before you get the full benefits. Start by listening to this audio.

When we breathe using our chest rather than our stomach in normal life, it can cause:

  • Palpitations – your heart rhythm is disturbed
  • Dizziness, feeling light-headed, faint
  • A feeling of fear and wanting to get away from things
  • Panic attacks
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Jerky speech
  • Sighing a lot
  • Stopping breathing/holding the breath
  • Feeling like you can’t breathe
  • Pains in the chest
  • Strange body sensations
Did you know?

Getting your breathing right slows your heart, lowers your blood pressure and reduces adrenaline.

At first I thought nothing was happening. Then after about two weeks I realised I was sleeping much better. I find breathing correctly very relaxing.Keith
Keith

Breathing exercise

When we breathe IN our stomach should move OUT a bit. When we breathe OUT our stomach should fall IN a little. Our upper chest should stay still – all the breathing should be with our lower chest. If that is not what is happening try this breathing exercise:

 

  • Lie or sit in a relaxed position and put one hand on your stomach, near your belly button and put your other hand on your upper chest. Relax your upper chest and shoulders. Now take a gentle breath in by gently pushing out your stomach. Try to keep your chest muscles and shoulders relaxed.
  • As you breathe out, try to relax. You can use your hand to press on your stomach to help a little. Try to keep your chest and shoulders relaxed.
  • Keep doing this for a couple of minutes. Stop if you get dizzy. Don’t take huge breaths. Try and breathe quite slowly.
  • If you find it difficult, you can make it happen by deliberately pushing out your stomach muscles when you breathe IN and relax your stomach as you slowly breathe OUT. Or, you can PUSH your stomach in with your hand as you breathe OUT.

 

Try to set aside five minutes, twice a day to practice this. Try to move towards slower, smoother, stomach breathing all of the time.

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