Volume 9, Issue 5, page 7

Ya-w-o! -- It's Good for You
HERE are a great many different relaxation methods being advocated.

These include limb-by-limb conscious
"progressive relaxation .% various
hypnotic, auto-hypnotic and suggested relaxation methods, including auto-genic training, relaxation
induced by imagining pleasant
scenes, diversion of attention,
music, rain tapes, relaxation purportedly induced by hobbies, sports, etc.,
the Eeman method of being consciously
aware of the body parts one by one, and
the various drug, controlled breathing,
and electrically-induced methods.

One of the best -- but not new -- methods is
that of tensing and releasing the muscles, limb
by limb. It is interesting to note that this
latter method is also being used by some new
body-building systems to develop muscles, altho the obvious relationship between those two
methods has apparently not been recognized,
and they developed independently. Recent scientific studies in Germany reportedly indicate
that a muscle will just as quickly develop
maximum size and strength by simply tensing it
once a day, holding the tension for six seconds, and then releasing it, as by the use of
strenuous exercise, such as weight-lifting. In
fact, it is implied that this is the secret
workable element in all exercise and any further exercise being not only useless, but detrimental.

Yawning, and the stretching that accompanies
it, is a natural, primitive, and instinctive
means of severely tensing and releasing the
muscles. Altho it is repressed and inhibited
in our society, it is done a great deal by
animals, and primitive and unsophisticated
peoples. Along with the tensing and releasing
of the muscles, there is also deep breathing,
holding of the breath, and a complete exhaustion of the air from the lungs, which may, of
itself, assist relaxation.

Altho it may at first appear absurd, daily
deliberate cultivation of yawning and stretching is an excellent and satisfying means of
promoting relaxation and firming of the muscles.

As a therapeutic exercise, yawning and
stretching must be done without inhibition. It
is best done mostly in bed, or on a pad on the
floor, with loose clothing, altho some of it
may well be done standing. It should be continued for several minutes, or, if time and
inclination permit, as long as there is any desire or spontaneity to it. At first, it may be
necessary to force the yawning, but there is a
self-perpetuating, snow-balling effect to it,
and it will develop spontaneously as one gets
into the mood of it. It must be stressed that
it is primarily an involuntary action, and
there should be little attempt at conscious
control of it. Once it is set in motion, one
should abandon himself to it, let happen what
will, and the body will writhe in all sorts of
contortions. If done "all out'', it will be
almost convulsive in nature. This will very
thoroly tense and release all the muscles of
the body, much better, in fact, than can be
done consciously by deliberately trying to locate each muscle individually. There is a satisfying "delicious" ache and tiredness about
this that is difficult to describe and must be
experienced. This is especially true for the
tired, nervous persons who need it most. It
"hurts good", so to speak. It can also be done
in bed, at night, when insomnia is encountered.

If yawning and stretching is being taught
as a relaxation method, either to classes or
to an individual, one must overcome an embarrassing reluctance to do it, as it is not a dignified activity to see nor do, (which is, perhaps, one reason why it is beneficial!) and
the desire to do it has usually been repressed
and inhibited. However, as is well known, there
is a strong suggestive force about yawning,
and if the teacher will yawn and stretch a few
times, then the pupils will find it almost impossible to resist doing likewise. As the spontaneity for it develops, it becomes enjoyable,
and there is a reluctance, and even difficulty,
in stopping, especially if not completed to a
satisfying degree.

It is probably significant that there is
often, perhaps usually, a great degree of
spontaneous yawning and stretching that accompanies successful catharsis in psychotherapy,
indicating that it is associated with the release of mental and physical tension (possibly
indicating that there is boredom with the subject that formerly caused concern).

I f done thoroly, yawning and stretching
will bring an extreme feeling of limpness to
the muscles and warmth to the extremities,
without the tired, heavy feeling that often
accompanies hypnotic relaxation methods. Muscle
firmness may take several weeks to develop to
a maximum degree, but relaxation is achieved,
to some extent, almost immediately. Altho
yawning is strongly associated with and suggestive of sleepiness, it does not, when done in
this way, seem to bring about a compulsive
desire to sleep as does verbally suggested
sleepiness. Instead, there is a pleasant relaxation whereas one may easily go to sleep, or
engage in some activity, whichever he desires.

The first few times this exercise is done