Muscle tightness and tension strikes all of us at one time or another. After any great workout, comes rest and recovery. After a stressful day, comes the need for relaxation. But this doesn’t always happen, in a busy life!
If you’re wondering how to relax muscles to help strengthen your body and relieve stress at the same time, then choose from the following tips to loosen your muscles and feel great.
Relaxing Muscles After a Workout
Any time you stress your muscles in a workout, you create microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. These tiny tears will heal stronger than they were before – IF you give your muscles enough recovery time!
Recovery time doesn’t mean vegging on the couch. It means slow, gentle movement (to keep the blood circulating to the muscles) and deep rest. Deep rest is the kind you get only during sleep or meditation.
The Effects of Stress on Muscles
And stress… oh, what stress does to your body! Tension in your upper back and neck and general stiffness from unconsciously tensing your body can create serious muscle imbalances if you don’t release the tension.
Emotional stress is the worst culprit in creating chronic muscle tension. In addition, environmental stresses such as artificial ingredients from processed foods can impede proper muscle functioning, and this can add to the problem.
11 Relaxation Solutions
Meditation is the number one way to relieve stress and relax muscles! You can meditate just before you go to bed to ensure that your body is completely relaxed before you hit the hay; or first thing in the morning to approach the day with a positive attitude that will help prevent stress in the first place.
This is the one relaxation technique that is best done every day.
And it doesn’t take long! Just 15-30 minutes will have you so relaxed that the world has melted away… at least while you’re meditating. All you need is a pair of headphones and an MP3 player. Then sit comfortably, close your eyes and Omharmonics' binaural beats will create a meditative state in your brain very quickly. That’s all you have to do. You can get into the soundtrack, repeat mantras, focus on becoming more relaxed, or simply do nothing at all.
A tensed muscle becomes a stiff muscle, so a proper stretch is essential after a workout. Even if you’ve done nothing but sit all day, a stretch will feel amazing! Get the kinks out by stretching every day.
Sometimes, the best stretches are counter-intuitive: if you have pain in a particular muscle, you may need to contract it, and stretch the opposing muscle. This is especially effective for back pain or tension. The yoga pose called “cobra” is a great one to relieve back tension – but please learn how to do the cobra so you don’t hurt yourself!
Never push a stretch to the point of pain, and never bounce. Just relax into it, breathing into the stretch until you feel a release in the muscle (a minute or two) and then going deeper. Stop when it hurts. Stretching should feel good!
Stretching helps release toxins built up in the muscles, and improves your range of motion. For even more toxin-flushing, treat yourself to a massage and drink plenty of water afterward.
3. Watch your breath
Usually, when you’re stressed your breathing is shallow and rapid, causing even more tension in your muscles. You can develop very deep breathing that will relax your muscles, FAST: simply focus on making a long, steady exhale. Don’t worry about the inhale. Your body will take care of that. Focus on the exhale for 10-20 breaths and feel the tension and tightness dissipate from your muscles.
Do this deep breathing when you’re stretching, too, for an even deeper stretch. As you exhale, visualize all tightness and tension leaving the muscle that is being stretched.
Deep breathing comes naturally as part of a meditation practice, but you can use deep breathing anytime to relax your muscles.
4. Warm up
Saunas, hot baths, hot showers, hot tubs and steam rooms warm your core tempera5. Dture, increase circulation and relax you both physically and mentally. You can stretch, too, while enjoying deep, penetrating heat. One commonly overlooked relaxation technique is to drink plenty of water after any kind of hot therapy, to replenish water lost due to sweating.
5. Drink water
Staying hydrated will help relax muscles too, by keeping the cells supple and by helping flush out toxins. Avoid sugary or artificially-sweetened energy drinks or sodas, though. If you need to replace electrolytes and minerals after a workout, supplement
As much as muscles need to be worked, they also need rest in the form of good sleep and meditation. But avoid vegging on the couch for more than a day. Your muscles will actually relax if you take some “moving workouts” like a gentle stroll, leisurely swim or bike ride, or hatha yoga.
7. Do Yoga
And speaking of yoga, if you practice one of the more aerobic or intense yoga styles, do a more stretch/relaxation-oriented class twice a month or so to give your muscles a break and incorporate more gentle stretching.
8. Get a massage
Certified massage therapists can work your muscles and relieve tightness in muscle fibers you can’t relax with regular stretching. While you’re getting the massage, focus on deep breathing, and be sure to drink lots of water afterward to help flush the toxins that were released from your muscles.
9. Use acupuncture or acupressure
There are many, many pressure points in the body, each corresponding to a certain muscle or muscle group. A trained acupuncturist can relieve tension in muscles quickly and painlessly.
10. Drink green tea
Drink antioxidant-rich green tea to help reduce damage to muscle tissue and speed healing; a healthy, supple muscle is a happy muscle.
11. Take a mineral supplement rich in magnesium!
This essential mineral aids in relaxation, nerve signaling and muscle contraction. Eat spinach, almonds and other nuts, squash and fish to ensure you’re getting enough magnesium.