Relaxation Exercises

Likely as not the child you can do the least with, will do the most to make you proud. Mignon McLaughlin.

Relaxation exercises are an effective way of helping problem children, as well as the rest of your class, concentrate on their schoolwork, cope with stressful situations and problems, control aggression, and tolerate frustration. Relaxation is also particularly helpful in settling children back into doing schoolwork after they have participated in physical activities or special events.

The two basic forms of relaxation, from which most exercises derive, are Progressive Relaxation and Relaxation Response.

Progressive Relaxation (Jacobson, 1938)–teaches children how alternately to tense and relax four muscle groups in their bodies: hands and arms; head, face, and throat; shoulders, chest, and stomach; legs and feet. They learn to the tell the difference between how their tense and relaxed muscles feel, and how they can substitute tense muscles for relaxed ones. Relaxation is facilitated by asking children to breathe deeply, visualize a calm pleasant place they’d rather be, or listen to music. Eventually children are able to go directly into the relaxed muscle phase without tensing up first.

Relaxation Response (Benson, 1975)–brings children into a relaxed state by having them repeat a special word over and over again. What the word is does not matter, so long children can say it without thinking about it too hard. In doing the Relaxation Response children should have a quiet environment, be sitting in a comfortable position, and have a passive mind-space, not letting their thoughts focus on any one thing.

Some innovative ways of using relaxation in your classroom are suggested by Gay Hendricks and Thomas Roberts in The Second Centering Book, 1977. Following are a few of their techniques. These are reprinted by permission of the Prentice-Hall Publishing Company.