What is Functional Relaxation?
This is a form of body therapy which facilitates the body’s self-regulation through the autonomic nervous system. What does this mean?
Our autonomic nervous system is always active and makes sure that our organs, for example the heart, the lungs and the intestines, and their internal functions are working properly. We are not usually aware of how fast or slow our heart is beating, or how our intestines are digesting food: our bodies have an incredible way of just getting on with things. There are three parts to the autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic, parasympathetic and enteric. We’re going to be looking at the first two of these. The sympathetic nervous system is stimulated by things we perceive as a danger, for example if a tiger jumped out at you whilst walking. This is also known as the fight or flight instinct. Your body is triggered into increasing your heartbeat, stopping saliva and mucus production, and dilating your pupils, to name but a few things. These functions will help you survive in a dangerous situation. On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in when you are in a situation of calm or rest, for example lying out in the sunshine in a park. Your pulse will slow down, blood pressure decrease, your digestive system will reactivate and mucus and saliva production will increase again. Both these systems are always at work balancing each other out.
In the days when people were constantly aware of external dangers, had to catch animals in order to have food, those stress reactions were necessary and beneficial. Today, we are rarely confronted with situations in which we actually have to take flight. Taking flight would utilise the stress hormones that are released, adrenaline and cortisol, aiding a return to a neutral state afterwards. However, for most of us, we often find ourselves in stressful situations but there is no physical activity to use up those stress hormones. If we end up not being able to return to a neutral or relaxed state over a longer period of time, or we’re not in a relaxed state for long enough, we can develop certain stress related symptoms. These might be anything from headaches, stomachaches, backache to high blood pressure, heart problems, depressions and many more.
So, back to functional relaxation and how it can help you: by actively doing certain movements on the out-breath, we can trigger our parasympathetic nervous systems into action and help ourselves to relax and calm down. Functional relaxation is about learning how to do that. Simple actions linked to our breathing lead to our bodies relaxing and to perceptible physical and emotional changes. Through these physical experiences we develop a more sophisticated self-awareness and self-regulation. This method includes a verbal element in addition to the physical element and encourages the examination of thought processes on a cognitive level. By switching between the physical and cognitive levels, impulses for change or newly found solutions can be tried out straight away. This element in Functional Relaxation is of course hard to transfer to audio sessions. In a one to one or a group session you have a coach or workshop leader to discuss those feelings with. In an audio session, you’re on your own. This element does not have to be left out completely and you will hear an invite every now and then to try and put your physical sensations and feelings into words. This might seem very unusual at first, but you will find you get accustomed to it over time and benefit from it. I would also strongly recommend taking an occasional one to one or group session where your own individual needs and issues can be addressed.
Just focussing our awareness on our body can have a relaxing effect, as in many other relaxation methods. This reaction is intensified by the functional relaxation rules – moving on the out breath, repeating two or three times, then resting and reflecting. Breathing is deepened and slowed down and a calmer rhythm can be developed, which results in a regulating, relaxing and regenerating effect on the nervous system. This effect can be learned and then stored in the body’s physical memory.
This course will encourage you to look at the various stress factors in your life, look at the resources you already have for dealing with them and help you find new ways to help you relax. Most of the interventions you will learn are fairly short and can be integrated into daily life.
Functional Relaxation is a clinically proven method and in trials has been shown to improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, depression as well as stress and anxiety. It's also a great method for musicians dealing with performance anxiety or for pain developed through playing. For more information on clinical studies carried out in Munich by Claas Lahmann and Maria Gebhardt, click on this link: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01553/full
Try out this first session by clicking on the above link! It explains what you will need at the beginning of each recording and there are simple instructions for you to follow. At the end of each session is some music for you to relax to. There are 5 more audio sessions in this functional relaxation course, each looking at different aspects of our minds and bodies. You can find the course here:
I would strongly recommend you to consider taking part in an online workshop or book an individual lesson to get you started in the FR method.
There are also accompanying flashcards to go with the course. These give you a summary of the week’s audio session, a “quick fix” card to help you through tricky moments of heightened stress or anxiety and a coaching card to help you set new targets for integrating relaxation and mindful elements into your daily routine. The flashcards come at cost of 10€/£10.
Listen to the first session in English:
Individual functional relaxation sessions are also available:
1 to 1 sessions are also available if you want some individual sessions adapted to your own personal needs. You can book these to have online or in Berlin if you live nearby. Get in touch to book a session.
Workshops or group sessions are available upon request: Contact mailto:
60 Min ONLINE via Skype or Zoom or in Berlin-Wedding (language English or German) – 60€/£60