A closer look at: relaxation

Ever wondered why relaxation is so important? Interested in tools to relax and why breaks are necessary for an efficient training? Let’s find out. By Christina Nettek & Viktoria Platzer

Tension and stress are our constant companions these days. Of course, a certain amount of stress can be healthy, because it motivates you to give your best, but too much of it can ruin you. Thus, taking breaks has never been more important. However, when multitasking between daily duties, job and family, there usually isn’t much time left for you. Working out might help you to get rid of stress. Yet, it’s even more important to check on your energy levels, before they run out completely. The way to go is to make time for relaxing not only your body, but your mind too and to ideally get in a state of calmness, happiness and wellbeing.

Relaxation should come naturally

The easiest and most natural way to relax is through sleep. As soon as you fall asleep your stress-hormone, Cortisol, decreases. This allows you to relax deeply and to let go of extra tension in your body. Sleeping will also help to decrease stress-levels. At the same time our subconscious mind will process everything we have experienced that day. Chronic stress or other stressors might interfere with this hormonal balance, which can result in sleeping disturbances. As a consequence neither mind nor body will be able to recharge or relay.

„Meditation brings us into contact with what holds the world together.“
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tools to relax

How can I be more relaxed, you may ask. It’s important to find a balance between work, leisure, sports and relaxation. The good thing is, there are more ways to rest our body and mind – sleep being only one of them. So if you’re not having the chance to take a midday nap, you might find these alternatives useful:

  • Exercising
  • Meditation
  • Autogenic training
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Doing nothing
  • Relaxation skills as yoga or chi gong

This is certainly just a selection. If you can’t wrap your head around mental exercises, you might stick to physical workouts, since sport is a well-known way to get rid of stress. What happens is that through working out, blood sugar levels are lowered and muscles are supplied with oxygen, happiness hormones are released and our body arrives in a state of relaxation. Any signs of fatigue diminish and you will feel much more recovered and content.

Strive for calm, but through balance, not through the stoppage of your activity.

Friedrich von Schiller

Insights of an Taekwondo Athlete and Qi Gong teacher:

Gunter Attarpour
(c) Patricia Weißkirchner

Especially with Yoga and Qi Gong gaining in popularity, we are becoming more aware of how helpful breathing exercises and meditation are to regain more ease of mind and recovery to our lives. We interviewed Gunther Maria Attarpour of Perfom, who not only has been a successful Taekwondo athlete for many years, but also a passionate Qi Gong and Taiji Quan teacher. His aim is to unite Eastern moving-, meditation- and mental techniques with modern competitive sport. He talks about the relations of active movement and inner balance and why taking a break is an important tool for training effectively:

How important is recreation? Can recreation be different for everybody?

Recreation definitely is an important factor in our lives, especially with our modern lifestyles. The more stressful and intense our days become, the more important it is to take a break and rest. The way to achieve this state of ease might be different to everybody. It might be taking a walk in nature, meditation, Qi Gong, Taiji or Yoga. Others might find relaxation in daily tasks such as cooking, ironing or crafts. So there might not only be different ways to get more relaxed, but relaxation itself might mean something different for everybody. So it’s important to find what’s right for you and what feels good for you.

Being relaxed all day, is this something to strive for?

The ideal condition would be to find the right balance, between relaxation and tension, activity and serenity.

What happens, if we disregard mind and body balance?

If we neglect our need for ease and recreation, our mind and body will for sure react to the daily stress levels we experience. Our wellbeing worsens and in worst case overworking mind and body will lead to severe illnesses. That’s their way to demand the much-needed break, if we ignore our personal wellbeing.

How can we get more ease and relaxation into your everyday life or in stressful situations?

Meditation- and relaxation techniques will help us to ease body and mind whenever we’re actively taking time to practise. Through regular exercising our mind will be trained to recall this state of ease into our everyday life as we become well aware of our need for balance even in stressful situations. This is simply a skill, which is taught in meditation classes as well.

How important is recreation after physical exercises as sport?

After an intense training it is important to allow the body to get back from high intensity to a normal state. Stretching will therefore help to regenerate and prevent stiff muscles. Be careful not to overstretch after a demanding workout. Try to incorporate breathing and restorative exercises in your cooling down session.

Is recreation important for an efficient training?

Of course it is. Recreation and deep relaxation shorten the regeneration phase, which allows you to get back to training sooner than without any regenerative routine.

Is it important to take a break while training?

This totally depends on the type of exercise and your goal. There are workout routines where a continuous intensity is necessary and others where a break is useful for training effectively. Especially when learning technical skills or doing lots of strength exercises a well-placed break can have an important effect on the learning process or for reaching a training goal.

Thanks Gunther for this interview.

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