12 Ways To Release Muscle Tension (on the spot):

by Carole Bourne

“I choose to respond to today by breathing and not stressing”

Stress simply distracts the body from healing itself.  Don’t let stress be the number one focus for your mind and body.

Counteract the effects of stress – as it happens (or whenever you think of it), by checking in with your body and  diffusing its tight, hard, clenching, clinging, dragging, depleting energy from your muscles and other body parts.

You only need a momentary shift of focus to give your body some light relief.

Of course I’m writing about muscle tension this week, as I’ve found myself of late to be particularly stressed and tight in certain body parts, particularly around the neck and stomach area.  I’m sure its got nothing to do with being a single mum of 3 boys.

So following are some of the simple little exercises I’ve been doing, as often as I can, to dissolve the surface tension and give my body some more space and energy.   Try them out for yourself and let me know what you think.


12 ways to release muscle tension (on the spot):

1: Part your lips slightly: The simple act of parting your lips ever so slightly can create an amazing release for your jaw, neck and throat area.  When you part your lips its very difficult to grind teeth, clench your jaw or purse your lips.  In fact, if you are anything  like me you won’t realize how much stress you hold in your jaw area until you part your lips slightly and feel the difference.

2:  Relax your shoulders: Tight tense shoulders generally bunch up around your ears, restrict the flow of blood to your brain, round your shoulders and even sink your chest.  Un-hunch your shoulders, spread your collar bones, lift your chest and relax your neck and jaw.  Now, feel the difference.

3:  Draw a figure eight into your palm: Distract yourself from stressing and shift your thinking by tracing a figure -eight onto the palm of your hand.  It’s bliss.   Another lovely place to draw the figure is around your eyes.  Very soothing and relaxing for your whole face.

4:  Grab your ears: Pinch your ear lobes between your thumb and index finger. Holding a firmish grip allow the weight of your arms to pull your ears down.  If you are holding lots of tension in this area you will notice instant relief as pressure is released from your head, your neck lengthens,  your shoulders relax and you feel lots more space in this area of your body.

5:  Face yoga – stick out your tongue (pictured above):  Lions pose is great for releasing tension and frustration held in your face and upper body area.  You literally stick out your tongue as far as it will go and then roar like a lion.  Releases oodles of frustration, tension and stress.  If roaring like a lion is not your thing then pretend you are Gene Simmons from Kiss.

6:  Remember to breathe: When stressed we often hold our breath which traps tension in our muscles and body.  Remember to breath. When the breath is unsteady, everything is unsteady. Dr Weil says “If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly”.

7:  Chew your food longer: Yes, its true.  Chewing your food is a natural relaxant.  As David Wolfe says “A natural de-stressor is to chew your vegetables.  It releases four times more serotonin”.  Serotonin is often known as the molecule of happiness.

8:  Spend longer on your exhale: Your inhale stimulates and your exhale relaxes.   Use your next exhale to release tension and put a healthy distance between you and whatever is stressing you out.

9:  Rest on your  yoga bolster (code for big pillow): If you have the luxury of resting on your yoga bolster for a few moments – then do it.   Laying down and lowering your head triggers relaxation in your body.  If you don’t have a yoga bolster then 2 or 3 blankets rolled together are perfect for you to rest in a restorative yoga pose such as, supported childs pose.

10:  Chant Om: Chanting “Om” creates vibrations inside your mouth that are similar to striking a gong.  It’s great for releasing tension in the face, neck and upper body. Chanting om (aum)  is refreshing and brings a light quality to your being.  I find it a wonderful relaxer.

11:  3 rounds of alternate nostril breathing: This has to be one of my favourites and I have to say works every time for me.   Alternate nostril breathing relaxes your whole body.  It soothes your nervous system, calms an agitated mind, your emotions and relaxes stressed breathing.   Click here for simple instructions on alternate nostril breathing.

12: Belly breathing for instant relief: Do you hold stress in your stomach area like me ?  Then use your breath to dissolve any tightness and tension.   Place your hands on your belly and feel the rise and fall of your tummy with each inhale and exhale.  Continue until you feel it soften, open up and relax.  Ah! now doesn’t that feel better.  It’s impossible for a soft relaxed tummy to hold tension.

More ideas for stress relief:

When I’m super stressed the herb passion flower works wonders for me, you can read more about this herb in a previous article called 3 potent natural herbal sedatives.

Here’s a few more articles from the Rejuvenation Lounge which you might find helpful.

A quiet mind ritual – The sacred cave restorative yoga meditation posture

The three arrivals

Small ways to take care of your energy

Ritual for releasing worry


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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine Mattice September 28, 2010 at 10:29 am

These are great tips and I plan to try every one of them. I have a problem with panic attacks and I’m hoping that your tips might help me. Thank you.


Gary Stott May 29, 2015 at 3:59 am

Blessings Christine and to anyone else whose body has trapped tension, use these techniques each day and rid yourself of the excessive physical and emotional build ups that prevent you from being free from fear. Take charge of this negative energy and dismiss it completely from disrupting the rythym and way of living a calm healthy existence. Namaste.


Gary Sikorski September 28, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Enjoyed your article! A wonderful facial exercise program can be found at http://www.HappyFaceYoga.com. Lots of great info on facial exercises, the healthy natural way to look younger, and an easy-to-learn DVD can be found there. And please forward this info to your friends. I’m sure they will love you for it!


Carole Fogarty September 28, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Fingers crossed they work for you Christine. Namaste Carole


Christine Grudecki September 29, 2010 at 12:16 am

I’m a mobile spa consultant and I’m always looking for tips to give my clients on how to relax “better”. These tips are fantastic! I’m hooked on your blog!



Ana January 3, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Love this! These are tips I use a lot with self and clients, but ALWAYS nice to have a well-written reminder.
Thank you!


Michelle March 8, 2011 at 6:09 pm

how can i print out this article? i LUV it & need it by my side DAILY to view in case of a crisis!


Nicolas July 10, 2012 at 2:57 am

I have been given the advice by several people that in order to get relief from muscle tension it’s good to get a hot shower and then turn it into a cold shower at the last minute. I’ve tried it and it helped. What is your opinion on this advice?


Bodane August 16, 2012 at 8:33 am

thermal therapy’s are great for alleviating stress symptoms. Me I stretch in a sauna for 45min twice everyday then a cold shower after.


Sarah September 16, 2012 at 10:32 am

OH YES! Thank you SO much! I have had a terrible neck pain for a week and the instant I did #1 it disappeared! I will be passing this page on to a few folks!


Diana M April 23, 2013 at 12:03 am

Thank you for a great article. At the age of 57, I am getting braces put on my teeth next week and am anxious about all the proceedings. This will absolutely help me relax!


Brian Neal July 24, 2013 at 3:55 am

Very helpful pleased have found it while searching for relief from neck tension
Thank you


chris flores October 17, 2013 at 5:58 am

Thanks so much this really helped!


blue bee July 24, 2015 at 5:47 am

Cooool stuff…..lykd it


Yoga Teacher August 25, 2015 at 12:07 am

Wanted to add a bit to the “parting your lips” suggestion. I’m a teacher trainer for restorative yoga through Judith Hanson Lasater… 1. Create space between the teeth (upper and lower), 2. Release the tongue from the upper palette, 3. Part the lips. I am also an Iyengar yoga teacher and BKS Iyengar has said that relaxing the face relaxes the body 🙂 Give it a try, even better…add relaxing the skin of the face, especially around the mouth, and the inner and outer eyes. Namaste!


Nicole November 15, 2015 at 4:43 am

Thank you for posting. Grateful to have come across this…experiencing a lot of anxiety lately


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