Stretching as an alternative relaxation training procedure
The purpose of this program of research was to explore the use of muscle stretching procedures in relaxation training with a clinical population. In the first controlled study, stretching exercises for four muscle groups (obicularis occuli, sternocleidomastoid/trapezius, triceps/pectoralis major, and forearm/wrist flexors) were prepared. A group of people using these procedures (SR, N = 8) was compared to a group using the Bernstein and Borkovec (1973) tense-release (TR; N = 8) techniques for those same muscle groups, as well as compared to an appropriate group of controls (WL; N = 8). Assessment of physiological (multi-site EMG) and subjective (emotions, muscle tension, and self-efficacy) responses showed that persons in the SR displayed less sadness, less self-reported muscle tension at four sites, and less EMG activity on the r.masseter than persons in the TR group. In the second study, 15 subjects were administered an expanded version of the SR relaxation procedures. Results showed that all subjects reported significant decreases in self-reported levels of muscle tension; muscle tension responders showed lowered trapezius EMG and respiration rates and cardiovascular responders showed lowered diastolic blood pressure. The results are discussed in terms of the utility of relaxation procedures based primarily on muscle stretching exercises for lowering subjective and objective states of arousal.