The facts

Relaxation therapy encompasses many approaches and methods, all with the shared aim of relieving tension and anxiety.

Our bodies react to stress in predictable ways - boosts in heart rate and blood pressure, dilation of the pupils, and muscle tension. This "fight or flight" response can negatively affect our health if stress becomes chronic.

Proponents of relaxation therapy believe that we can cultivate a "relaxation response" (i.e., calming heart rate and blood pressure, easing muscle tension) that can have an opposite and positive effect on our health. Techniques include:

  • repetition of specific and calming words, phrases, or prayers
  • meditation
  • deep breathing
  • massage
  • mental imagery
  • biofeedback
  • yoga
  • tai chi
  • progressive muscle relaxation

A word of caution

Relaxation therapy techniques vary, but they are generally considered safe for the majority of people. Most practitioners who use relaxation therapy techniques are certified under other areas of specialty, such as hypnotherapy, massage therapy, yoga instruction, chiropractic care, or physical therapy.

Relaxation therapy should not be relied upon as sole treatment for a medical condition, but rather as a complement. Be sure to inform your health care providers of any relaxation therapy in which you take part.