The ability to relax when needed is an important asset for anyone, especially athletes. Be it being stressed from work, sports, life, or just taking that game winning shootout shot, you need to be able to be relaxed enough to focus on what you need or want to do.
Relaxation techniques come in every shape and size. There are whole practices, including meditation and yoga. There are also techniques meant for a quick fix relaxation, like deep breathing.
Deep breathing and muscle contraction
For shorter term relaxation, there are two easy techniques that can be undertaken – deep breathing and muscle contraction.
Deep breathing is exactly what it sounds like. However, the technique is not just breathing deeply. When you are feeling stressed or in need of a break, deep breathing involves stopping whatever you are doing, closing your eyes if you are able, and taking the deepest breath possible. You want to focus letting your stomach relax and expand outwards, let the breath flow inwards, down to your stomach, hold for a few seconds and then release. There should be no effort to force the breath in or out, and if it takes you a few breaths to be able to take the full deep breath described above, then do that. Once you can take the full deep breath, take at least 3, preferably 5. This removes you from the stressful situation, not physically of course, but mentally. It allows you to refocus your attention when you come back to it. As you are able, you can come back to the situation and then go back to the deep breathing as needed.
A second technique is muscle contraction. This uses muscular contraction in a focused way to both alleviate the stress of the physical body through tension and to focus the mind away from the stressful situation. To start, you contract the muscles of the feet, hold for a few seconds and then relax. Next move to the calves, and relax, then the thighs and relax. You can proceed to the hips, the stomach, the back, the chest, the shoulders, the arms, the hands, back to the neck and finally the face. When you are done, you can go back to anywhere that still feels stressed or tense. Once done, you can come back to the situation that needs your attention with a more focused mind and calmer body.
You can use both in combination, starting with the deep breathing and then following with the muscle contractions, or just one.
If you haven’t worked with relaxation techniques before, give it a try and see what you notice.
CERTIFIED ATHLETIC THERAPIST IN AIRDRIE & CALGARY
CERTIFIED STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING SPECIALIST CSCS
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