Relaxation exercises to relieve muscle tension

Relaxation exercises to relieve muscle tension

Relaxation exercises to relieve muscle tension

Emotional stress is the main culprit responsible for creating chronic muscle tension, especially upper back, neck and shudder stiffness and tension. Fortunately there are various relaxation exercises and other ways and means to tackle this problem.

Oh, what stress does to your body!

Change is part of life, but significant changes may lead to stress and anxiety. Anxiety can be accompanied by a variety of physical symptoms. You may have an upset stomach, trouble breathing, feel faint or as though you are having a heart attack.
You may have difficulty concentrating or sleeping and may even be feeling irritable, depressed with a sense of doom and gloom. Your emotions may be diminished, making it difficult to experience or express loving feelings or have positive aspirations for the future.

On-going stress and anxiety can cause certain muscle groups to tense and tighten, for example the neck muscles. Tight and tensed neck muscles are often associated with repressed anger or when someone has difficulty expressing his or her feelings.

Tense muscles limit movement, which in turn restricts blood flow and diminishes oxygenation. This results in an accumulation of excess waste products, such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. It is, therefore, no surprise that muscle tension can be a significant cause of the fatigue that often accompanies chronic stress.

Is there a solution? Yes, try these exercises to unblock your emotions and release muscular tension.

Progressive muscle relaxation

  • Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Lie on your back in a comfortable position. Rest your arms at your sides, with palms facing down on the surface beside you.
  • Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply.
  • Clench your hands into fists and hold them tightly for 15 seconds. As you do this, relax the rest of your body. Visualise your fists contracting, becoming tighter and tighter.
  • Relax your hands and as you do so, visualise a warm light flowing into the entire body, making all your muscles soft and pliable.
  • Now, tense and relax each of the following parts of your body in this order: face, shoulders, back, stomach, pelvis, legs, feet and toes. Hold each part tensed for 15 seconds and then relax your body for 30 seconds before going on to the next part.
  • Complete the exercise by shaking your hands. Picture the remaining tension flowing out of your fingertips.
  • Drink at least one glass of water.

Release muscle tension and anxiety

  • Find a quiet place where you won’t be undisturbed.
  • Lie on your back in a comfortable position. Allow your arms to rest at your sides, palms down. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply with your eyes closed.
  • Focus on your feet, ankles and legs. Do any of these parts of your body have any muscle tension or tightness? If so, how does the tense part of your body feel? Is it vice-like, knotted, cold and numb? Do you notice any strong feelings, such as hurt, upset or anger in that part of your body? Breathe into that part of your body until you feel it relax. Release any anxious feelings with your breathing, continuing until they begin to decrease in intensity and fade.
  • Next, move your awareness into your hips, pelvis and lower back. Is there any tension there? Notice any anxious feelings located in that part of your body. Breathe into your hips and pelvis until you feel them relax. Release any negative emotions as you breathe in and out.
  • Focus on your abdomen and chest. Notice any anxious feelings located in this area and let them drop away as you breathe in and out. Continue to release any upsetting feelings located in your abdomen or chest.
  • Finally, focus on your head, neck, arms and hands. Note any tension in this area and release it. With your breathing, release any negative feelings blocked in this area until you can’t feel them anymore.
  • When you have finished releasing tension throughout the body, continue deep breathing and relaxing for another minute or two. At the end of this exercise, you should feel lighter and more energised.
  • Drink a glass of water.

Stretch and heat those muscles

Massages, saunas, hot baths, hot showers, hot tubs and a session in a steam room will warm your muscles, increase circulation and relax you both physically and mentally. Just remember to drink plenty of water after any kind of hot therapy.


Exercising to relax. Retrieved from:

How to relax muscles and banish tightness and tension. 2013. Retrieved from:

Revised by M van Os