In the 1970s in Phoenix, Arizona, I lay on the floor of the music room with my classmates. Our teacher, Forrest Bachtel, instructed us, “Breathe deeply” the scent of elementary school carpet in our noses.
Mr. Bachtel told us to tense and relax our bodies, one part at a time, and to breathe. “Squeeze your toes,” he’d say. “Now relax them.” Part by part he moved us towards relaxation, helping us forget our fourth grade woes: bullying, P.E., missing homework.
Mastermind that he was, Mr. Bachtel employed two relaxation practices as classroom management: controlled breathing and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).
Controlled breathing, known by yoga practitioners as pranayama, has been shown to improve function of the autonomic nervous system, the part of the body that controls involuntary body functions such as breathing, heart rate and digestion.
A study of 60 men showed that those who practiced slow, controlled breathing increased the “rest and digest” activity in their parasympathetic nervous systems, and decreased the “fight or flight” response in their sympathetic nervous systems.(2)
Previously known as Jacobson's relaxation technique, PMR was created in 1929 by Dr. Edmund Jacobson in response to the pressures of the modern world. PMR is the practice of tensing and relaxing separate muscle groups while observing one's own tension.(1) Click here for an example.
Deep breathing and relaxation are vital to health. Jacobson called the human body “a wonderful living instrument,” and believed people should learn how to use that instrument properly. Read on for 100 ways relax.
1) Breathe deeply.
2) Light a candle.
3) Take a bath.
4) Pet your dog.
5) Wear pajamas.
6) Hug a hot water bottle.
7) Take a long walk.
9) Watch a “Midsomer Murders” Netflix marathon.
12) Make love.
13) Splurge on a massage.
14) Go for a run.