The goal of muscle tension management is to reduce muscular tension, as well as to enhance flexibility and the range of motion of the muscles. There are many ways to do this, and techniques vary, but many experts believe that relaxation of the entire body can be achieved by adopting specific breathing and relaxation exercises that allow you to focus only on your breathing. Relaxation exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing have been shown to significantly reduce muscle tension in the context of therapeutic massage, and they have also been used to teach patients to relax their entire bodies. Progressive muscle relaxation (or muscle-tone relaxation) is a non-pharmaceutical approach to deep tissue relaxation, motivated by the idea that muscle tone relaxation is an emotional response to stress-providing the body with the strength to deal with stress and anxiety. Muscle relaxation is achieved through controlled breathing and rhythmic contractions of the larger muscle groups, which relaxes the smaller, silent muscles as well.
Deep muscle relaxation may not be the most comfortable or effective technique for everyone, however it does have the advantage of being more directly linked to one's own emotions. The body's reaction to stress and anxiety can make it feel as if there is a constant struggle between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind, with the subconscious often winning in the end. Muscle tension produces a sensation of tension across the whole body, and muscle relaxation exercises allow you to release that tension by relaxing your muscles. Some people find that simply visualizing relaxation helps them; if this works, you can use visualizations of light or bright colors, warm colors like orange or red, or a person's favorite image, to help relax your muscles before moving into the breathing and relaxation exercises described above. You can also experiment with visualizations of your favorite pastime, such as playing a video game, drinking chai tea, or reading a book-it really is up to you.
Another approach to reducing muscle tension and improving flexibility is called progressive muscle relaxation. In this method, you work muscle groups one at a time using repetitive, rhythmic patterns and are encouraged to relax each group as you go. Eventually, the routines become more comfortable and effortless and can be done without thinking about it. If you are having problems relaxing, you can also practice progressive muscle relaxation by slowly increasing the speed and/or duration of your movements. With practice, this technique can significantly reduce your anxiety levels and improve your range of motion.