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2 Fast Acting Techniques to Relax: Diaphragmatic Breathing & Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Diaphragmatic Breathing

One of the most basic breathing techniques which activate the parasympathetic nervous system, that will allow you to relax, that will slow the heart rate, and is said to reduce stress.

You can use this type of breathing to meditate, to relax before bedtime, and to help calm down in stressful situations.


  1. Slowly breathe in through your nose.

  2. Fill your lungs with air and expand your ribcage.

  3. Continue to breathe and expand your abdomen.

  4. On your exhale, imagine your abdomen and lungs contracting inwards as the air flows up and out through the mouth.

  5. Repeat this for 10 cycles while paying attention to the air flow and imagining the direction your breath is going in as you do it. Try to go as slow as possible.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a technique that was used to relax invented by Dr. Edmund Jacob in the 1920's. The technique involves actively contracting and progressively releasing muscles in the body. It allows for quick relief for reducing stress and is effective in positively influencing depression and anxiety.

Other benefits are reducing anxiety and tension, improved sleep, reduces low back pain and neck pain, improves systolic blood pressure and reduces frequency of migraines and TMJ symptoms.


You will need to inhale, tense each muscle group and hold for 5 seconds, then exhale, and let your muscles fully relax for 10 to 20 seconds before moving to the next group. Set aside about 15 minutes to go through the technique. Find a quiet, comfortable area.

  1. Lie down or sit down. Relax and take 5 slow deep breaths.

  2. Focus on the toes: lift them upward, hold, then let go. Pull the toes downward. Hold, then let go.

  3. Calf muscles: tense them and let go.

  4. Knees: bring them together, squeeze and let go.

  5. Hands: make a fist and clench them, and let go.

  6. Arms: tense them, and let go.

  7. Buttocks: squeeze, then let go.

  8. Abdomen: tense the abdominal muscles then let go

  9. Chest: Inhale and tense the chest, then let go.

  10. Shoulders: Raise them to your ears and let go.

  11. Lips: Purse them together and let go.

  12. Mouth: Open wide and contract the facial muscles, then let go.

  13. Eyes: Close them tightly and let go.

  14. Eyebrows: Lift and contract the muscles around your eyebrows, then let go.

Try these techniques out! Did they help? Let me know below in the comments!

Until next time,

Kinesiologist posing for a headshot
AJ Orprecio, BSc. Kinesiology

References: Hackett, Daniel A.; Chow, Chin-Moi. The Valsalva Maneuver: Its Effect on Intra-abdominal Pressure and Safety Issues During Resistance Exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 27(8):p 2338-2345, August 2013. | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31827de07d Toussaint L, Nguyen QA, Roettger C, Dixon K, Offenbächer M, Kohls N, Hirsch J, Sirois F. Effectiveness of Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Deep Breathing, and Guided Imagery in Promoting Psychological and Physiological States of Relaxation. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2021 Jul 2;2021:5924040. doi: 10.1155/2021/5924040. PMID: 34306146; PMCID: PMC8272667.

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