Relaxation procedure

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Relaxation methods or relaxation techniques (synonymous: relaxation methods) are practicing methods to reduce physical and mental tension or excitement. Physical relaxation and the experience of serenity , satisfaction and well-being are closely linked. Relaxation methods are used as treatment methods in psychotherapy and generally for psycho-hygiene .

There are ritualized settings for the exercise of the relaxation process , in which a certain duration of the exercise with fixed exercise phases, a certain physical posture, mostly sitting or lying, and the concentration on certain ideas or sensations are given.


The aim of all relaxation procedures is the relaxation reaction , which manifests itself on the neural level in an activation of the parasympathetic nervous system and a weakening of the sympathetic nervous system. On the physical level, the muscle tone is reduced, the reflex activity diminished, the peripheral vessels are dilated, the heart rate is slowed down, the arterial blood pressure is lowered, the oxygen consumption is reduced, the skin conductivity is reduced, and in the central nervous system the electrical and neurovascular activities are changed. On the psychological level, serenity, satisfaction and well-being are experienced in the relaxation reaction and the ability to concentrate and differentiate in physical perception is improved.

All relaxation processes aim to facilitate and stabilize the same in the central nervous system by repeating the relaxation reaction frequently . The longer a relaxation process is practiced, i.e. the more often and more strongly the relaxation reaction is repeated, the faster and easier it can be activated in everyday life due to conditioning processes. A brief self-instruction or a small conscious physical change can then quickly have a calming effect , even in stressful situations.

The relaxation response is in contrast to the stress response . Both reactions are subject to psychophysiological processes in the interaction between psychological processes and physical functions . Some relaxation methods, such as progressive muscle relaxation, make greater use of the opportunity to influence psychological processes by changing physical functions, while other relaxation methods, such as autogenic training, make greater use of the possibility of influencing physical functions through changes in psychological processes . In both approaches, the practitioner can become more aware of the connections between his physical sensations and his states of consciousness.

By practicing a relaxation process, the practitioner learns to consciously influence his thoughts and his body. An increase in well-being and relief or better management of complaints brought about in this way strengthens the experience of self-efficacy , self-control and self-competence .

Overview relaxation procedures

Autogenic training and progressive muscle relaxation

The autogenic training and progressive muscle relaxation are the two most clinically important relaxation techniques. These procedures alone are specifically designed to practice the relaxation response, while most of the methods that are also used as relaxation procedures have other primary objectives. Both methods are relatively easy to learn. Expert guidance is recommended, but books and audio CDs are also available for self-study.

Autogenic training

Autogenic training is an auto-suggestive relaxation method developed by Johannes Heinrich Schultz in the 1930s . The practitioner concentrates on short formulaic ideas that are repeated slowly for some time, such as "The arms and legs are heavy." Or "The breathing is calm and even."

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Around the same time that Schultz was developing autogenic training, Edmund Jacobson developed Progressive Muscle Relaxation . Here the practitioner tenses individual muscle groups and lets them go again. An essential element of the exercises is the practitioner's attention to the perceived differences between tension and relaxation.

Meditative procedures

Diverse meditation methods and yoga are Far Eastern practices with a spiritual background, which are often secularized in the West because of their relaxing effect and are also integrated into clinical practice. In addition to the relaxation reaction, further positive effects are ascribed to meditation and yoga.


In the clinical area, u. a. the mindfulness meditation applied as in Zen and Vipassana is practiced and how they by Kabat-Zinn Jon in the 1970s as part of the stress reduction mindfulness based was introduced as relaxation techniques in behavioral therapy. The situation is similar with the Benson meditation , which is predominantly used in English-speaking countries and is used to reduce stress.


In the second half of the 20th century, a secularized yoga emerged , which is practiced mainly because of its positive effects on both physical and mental health. Body postures ( asanas ) and breathing exercises ( pranayama ) practiced in mindfulness cause a relaxation reaction.


With hypnosis, trances with deep relaxation states can be induced. Hypnosis in which only a deep state of relaxation is triggered and no suggestions (affirmations) are used is called empty hypnosis . Hypnosis in the true sense of the word with suggestions (affirmations) is a deep state of relaxation with additional instructions to the subconscious.

Hypnosis can also be performed as self-hypnosis . Autogenic training is a standardized form of self-hypnosis.

Imaginative procedure

Fantasy journeys , imaginations or visualizations , when used as relaxation methods, serve to deepen relaxation and are often part of other relaxation methods such as the upper level of autogenic training or in some forms of meditation.


Biofeedback processes have been developed and researched since the 1960s. With this method, biological body functions that cannot normally be perceived, such as pulse , skin conductance or brain waves, are reported acoustically or visually back to the practitioner using electronic aids and thus made aware. The practitioner learns to influence autonomous body functions willingly and objectively in a measurable way. Biofeedback methods can be used as a standalone procedure or to support learning about relaxation procedures.

Relaxation in motion

In addition to the relaxation procedures practiced in a resting, mostly sitting or lying posture, there are independently practicable methods that cause a relaxation reaction through mindful movements. The relaxation response that can be achieved in these exercises is smaller than in exercises with a resting posture. The exercises are particularly suitable as a relaxation method for people who find it difficult to maintain a long resting posture or who tend to be drowsy in the resting posture.

Qigong and Taijiquan

The Far Eastern methods Qigong and Taijiquan are primarily used for slow, meditative practice of harmonious flowing movements.

Body therapy methods

In some body therapy methods, exercises have been developed that can be practiced outside of therapy sessions. These include the Alexander Technique , the Feldenkrais Method , Concentrative Movement Therapy (KBT) and breathing therapy methods as well as functional relaxation .


Due to the concept of Felt Sense, focusing is suitable as an independent method for relaxation as well as for in-depth application of any other relaxation method.


While practicing a relaxation process, current states of tension can often be quickly resolved and chronic states of tension can be reduced. After three to four weeks of regular exercise, the relaxing and calming effect becomes noticeable in everyday life, on the one hand as greater general serenity and on the other hand as a better ability of self-regulation , in which the practiced state of relaxation can be created at will. Relaxation procedures are fundamental elements of stress management .

Due to the unspecific effect of the relaxation method, the therapeutic application spectrum is very broad. They are indicated in the treatment of numerous mental and physical disorders and illnesses, often as an additional measure . The mental disorders in which relaxation techniques are used include stress-related disorders, anxiety disorders , stress and adjustment disorders , mild to moderate depressive disorders , speech disorders , attention deficit syndromes , and disorders resulting from substance abuse . Physical illnesses in which the effectiveness of the relaxation process has been proven are high blood pressure, coronary heart disease , peripheral circulatory disorders , bronchial asthma , gastrointestinal disorders , headaches of the migraine and tension types, acute and chronic pain , sleep disorders , sexual dysfunction and somatoform disorders.

There may be contraindications for psychotic disorders, major depressive episodes, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and hypochondriacal disorders .

Areas of application

Relaxation methods are used in psychotherapy and in psychosomatic medicine, both in depth psychology and in behavioral therapy- oriented psychotherapy procedures. Several different relaxation procedures are often offered in psychosomatic clinics . Relaxation methods are also used in prevention , rehabilitation , sports therapy , wellness and in general in the health tourism sector. They are part of many community college programs. The courses of some relaxation procedures are subsidized by the health insurance companies.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ John C. Ruch: Self-hypnosis: The result of heterohypnosis or vice versa? In: International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis , Volume 23, No. 4, 1975, pp. 228-304, doi: 10.1080 / 00207147508415952 .
  2. Focusing. German Society for Relaxation Processes
  3. Joan Klagsbrun, Susan L. Lennox, Lauren Summer: Effect of "Clearing a Space" on Quality of Life in Women with Breast Cancer. In: US Association for Body Psychotherapy Journal , Volume 9, No. 2, 2010, pp. 48-53, ( (PDF; 83.27 kB)).
  4. Further training to cope with everyday school-specific stressors (school development award “Good Healthy School”). ( Memento from April 5, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Both as of February 27, 2011.
  5. ^ The First Step of Focusing Makes Any Stress-Reduction Technique More Effective. As of February 27, 2011.
  6. Kristiane Gierra, Norbert Klinkenberg: Relaxation process. In: Volker Köllner, Michael Broda (Ed.): Practical Behavioral Medicine. 2005, pp. 55-62.
  7. Dieter Vaitl, Franz Petermann (ed.): Relaxation method: The practical handbook . BeltzPVU, 2004, ISBN 3-621-27520-7 , p. 5, Google Books
  8. ^ H. Deimel: Relaxation process in sports therapy. In: Klaus Schüle, Gerhard Huber (Hrsg.): Basics of sports therapy. Prevention, outpatient and inpatient rehabilitation. 2nd, revised edition. Elsevier, Urban and Fischer, Munich a. a. 2004, ISBN 3-437-46411-6 , pp. 184-196.
  9. Monika Rulle, Wolfgang Hoffmann, Karin Kraft : Success strategies in health tourism. Analysis of the expectations and satisfaction of guests. Erich Schmidt, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-503-12602-6 , p. 58 ff.
  10. relaxation techniques. ( Memento from August 13, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Website of Rhineland-Palatinate Tourism; Retrieved December 17, 2014.