Relaxation Exercises – Learn Them to Effectively Recharge Your Batteries

Relaxation exercises allow you to relax and benefit more from recovery during sleep. Find out which ones best suit your needs. Just 5 minutes is enough to mitigate the effects of stress, as the exercises have an enormous impact on the nervous system.

Krystyna Dębicka

Relaxation exercises and mindfulness

There are many ways to relax. It is worth trying out different forms to choose the one that will benefit our health the most. Here are some practical and quick ways to enter a state of deep rest. You can do many of the suggested exercises at work, before bed, or even in public without drawing attention to yourself from those around you.

Before you move on to exercise, start by deepening your body awareness through mindfulness practice. Mindfulness can be trained, and it is not a training reserved exclusively for monks. Its growing popularity is the result of in-depth scientific research on the beneficial effects of such training on brain function and overall health.

The widespread need to slow down brought about by today’s fast-paced lifestyle also plays a significant role in mindfulness becoming more common. The creator of mindfulness training is Jon Kabat-Zinn, who in the late 1970s created a stress reduction programme based on mindfulness practice. The process involves noticing one’s thoughts and emotions and making decisions about one’s behaviour consciously rather than automatically. 

Exercise 1 – following the senses with attention

  1. Sit in a comfortable, upright position.
  2. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, close your eyes.
  3. Switch to sensing, to receiving signals from the body.
  4. Notice the position your body is in.
  5. What is the surface of what you are sitting on?
  6. Feel the touch of the clothes against your body.
  7. Shift your attention to the sounds and concentrate on what you hear.
  8. Feel the smells coming to you.
  9. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, open your eyes.
  10. Look around you, slowly observing the surroundings.
  11. Notice which objects are close to you and which are far away, and what colours and shapes they have.

When practicing mindfulness, thoughts come naturally. The mind usually begins to wander after just about 6 seconds. That’s the nature of it. Observe your mind with an inner smile. Gently look at what is emerging now – moment by moment. You can spend 2 to 5 minutes on this exercise and you will feel your nervous system slow down. If you want to deepen the sense of relaxation, give yourself more time to focus on your individual senses and bodily sensations.

Schultz autogenic training

The Schultz autogenic training method is based on visualisation and autosuggestion techniques. They are designed to induce a deep state of relaxation by focusing on the physical sensations of the body and suggestively formulating thoughts. These exercises allow you to consciously quiet your mind and reduce muscle tension, which contributes to overall well-being and stress reduction.

You don’t have to do the full 20-minute relaxation session according to the Schultz method. You can use the individual elements. At the beginning of practice, this is even recommended, as observing multiple somatic sensations at once can be challenging. Through autogenic training, you learn how to bring about a relaxation response within seconds, guided by your own will and in a planned, controlled and reflexive manner. By intentionally evoking a sense of heaviness and warmth in various parts of the body, you can enter a state of relaxation. This reaction is triggered by as short and simple signals as possible, using words: “Calm”, “Heaviness” and “Warmth”, and shifting the attention to the different parts of the body.

Exercise 2 – feeling the weight of the body

  1. Sit comfortably with your spine straight (preferably so that you can rest your back all the way and also support the head).
  2. Take several deep breaths in and out.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Notice the weight of your body.
  5. Shift your attention to your right hand and say in your mind 3 times: “My right hand is very heavy”.
  6. Now shift your attention to your left hand and say in your mind 3 times: “My left hand is very heavy”.
  7. Do the same, focusing attention on your right leg and then on your left leg.
  8. Finally, embrace your arms and legs with attention and say in your mind 3 times: “My two arms and my two legs are very heavy. Heavy as if they were made of lead. I feel calm and relaxed”.
  9. Compare how you feel your body weight now to how you felt it at the beginning of the exercise.
  10. Take a deep breath and slowly open your eyes.

Autogenic training is not a passive, sleep-like descent into a state of relaxation. It’s an active process of releasing tension. The desired state will be achieved when the person exercising finds a balanced middle way, between active influence and passive acquiescence.

Exercise 3 – the power of imagination

Another very simple way to relax, which you can use during a short break at work, before bedtime, or even while riding the bus, is visualisation.

  1. Sit or stand in a comfortable position.
  2. Take a deeper breath in and do a slow exhale.
  3. If you want, you can close your eyes.
  4. Imagine a wonderful place where you would like to be.
  5. Give yourself a moment to clearly see the colours, the shapes, the weather.
  6. Let your imagination guide you. Notice whether it is a place you know or a place completely imagined.
  7. Observe how you feel while you are there.
  8. Finally, take a deep breath again and remember that you can always go back there!

Self-massage – an excellent tool for daily relaxation

Self-massage is one of the most effective and easiest ways to relax. This technique uses gentle manipulation and compression of the neck muscles to reduce muscle tension in this often tense area. Perform the self-massage while seated (on a chair or bed, if you do it before bedtime).

Exercise 4 – neck massage

  1. Place your right hand on the neck.
  2. Direct your gaze ahead.
  3. Relax your right elbow and let the weight of your right hand move your palm on the neck, thereby massaging the tissues under the skin.
  4. Repeat at least three times.
  5. Perform the same for the left hand.
  6. Relax your neck and slowly turn your head in different directions while breathing deeply.

By focusing on the touch and breathing, self-massage can provide immediate relief from physical tension while improving mental state. Its ease and effectiveness make it an excellent tool for daily relaxation practice. In addition, it is worth noting that the touch is the first sense we encounter at the beginning of our lives, as well as the last.

Therefore, practicing self-massage on a regular basis not only supports regulation of the nervous system through the stimulation of touch receptors, but also helps us experience and understand our own bodies more fully. This form of relaxation can provide both physical and emotional benefits, and is an extremely important part of the daily routine.

Breath – the gateway to relaxation of the nervous system

As you can see, in all the exercises and relaxation methods mentioned earlier, an important aspect is conscious breathing. This is because breathing plays a key role as a gateway to the nervous system. It is a function of the body that occurs constantly, without our control, but at the same time we do have influence over it. By consciously manipulating the breath, we are able to affect our mental and physical state. For example, we can consciously lengthen the exhalation phase, which helps to calm ourselves in a sudden, stressful situation.

Breath awareness and control is therefore a key element in relaxation practice, enabling us to deal effectively with daily stress and tension. The proposed exercise is best done before going to sleep, in bed. It allows you to experience the natural volume of breathing. During it, you run three breathing tracks to ultimately enjoy three-dimensional breathing.

Exercise 5 – three-dimensional breathing

  1. Lie down comfortably on your back.
  2. Relax your legs, pelvis, chest and head.
  3. Feel the weight of your body.
  4. Take a deeper breath in and a slow, calm exhale.
  5. Return to normal breathing and observe the movement in your body that occurs as you inhale and exhale. Is the abdomen moving? The chest? Or both areas evenly?
  6. Place your hands on the stomach. Feel them rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Invite your breath consciously into the pit of your abdomen so that it expands the belly button area, hips and lower back. With the exhale, relax your whole body.
  7. Place your hands on the ribs and feel the same movement of expansion on the inhale and descent on the exhale in this area of the body. Inhalation three-dimensionally expands the ribs with exhalation.
  8. Shift your attention to the chest (you can put your hand on the sternum).

On the inhale, let your sternum rise, feel the movement in the armpit area between the shoulder blades and in the lungs just above the clavicles.

Learning to breathe consciously can be an effective tool for people who struggle to sleep. Consciously focusing on the breath during evening preparations for sleep can help quench mental activity and create conditions conducive to natural transition to relaxation and sleep.

Relaxation as part of the daily routine

Regular practice of relaxation techniques is key to maintaining a healthy mental and physical state by releasing tension and reducing stress. Relaxation exercises also enable the formation of self-care habits, which translates into long-term benefits for overall well-being and balance. To return to this state, it is also worthwhile to reach for available soothing methods, such as:

  • walking,
  • contact with nature,
  • broadly defined movement,
  • listening to music,
  • co-regulation – meeting with others, preferably those close to us, with whom we feel safe,
  • touch – hugging, massage, self-massage.

It is also important to develop self-awareness and openness to a variety of relaxation methods. By practicing relaxation exercises on a regular basis, you can build a solid foundation for dealing effectively with stress and maintaining balance in your daily life.


Rosenberg S., „Terapeutyczna moc nerwu błędnego. Praca z ciałem oparta na teorii poliwagalnej”, Wyd. Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, 2020.
Rebekkah LaDyne, „Odetnij napięcie. Jak pokonać stres dzięki praktykom psychosomatycznym”, Wyd. Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, 2021.