Relaxation techniques are used to reduce anxiety and manage arousal levels. There are many techniques available to the athlete, but the more common techniques are: centred breathing, progressive muscular relaxation, listening to music, and mental relaxation.
Centred breathing is the process where an athlete focuses on lengthening their breathing to reduce their respiratory and heart rate. Often used in Yoga, centred breathing is a relaxation technique often beginning with the athlete counting their breath in and out slowly increasing the length of inspiration and expiration. Centred breathing releases anxiety and can decrease arousal levels.
Progressive muscular relaxation is the process where the athlete moves from one end of their body to the other progressively contracting and then relaxing their muscles. Normally the process will begin at the toes, with the athlete contracting the muscles controlling their toes, and then their foot, lower and upper leg, before moving along the torso towards their arms, neck and head. Progressive muscular relaxation relieves anxiety and can decrease arousal levels.
Music has often been used to control athlete’s levels of arousal and anxiety. Music can be used to relax and calm the athlete; as well as to psych them up. Music can increase the athlete’s arousal levels if they are too low for performance or can decrease them, depending on the type of music listened to.
Mental relaxation is the process where an athlete focuses on reducing their respiratory rate and emptying their mind of thoughts and distractions in order to focus on the task at hand. This helps to focus the athlete and receive anxiety before performance.