Health promotion

Rest and relaxation

In order to remain fit and healthy, you need to maintain a balance between activity and relaxation, between exertion and rest. Any imbalance leads to reduced fitness, and hence often to overwork and stress.

Relaxation is not the same as sleep, because relaxation is experienced in a waking state. It may be induced in various ways. In addition to deep breathing, walking, listening to music or taking a warm bath, there are different methods that are particularly suited to inducing a state of relaxation. These methods can be learned and applied regularly in everyday life.

Rebalance yourself in your breaks

In the right-hand column you will find the link to some exercises that you can perform at your workplace. The exercises will get your circulation going, support the mobility of your spine and aid relaxation.

Rebalance yourself in your breaks (PDF) (PDF, 221KB)

Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises can be a simple and effective way of helping to reduce the negative effects of superficial breathing and induce relaxation.

Breathing exercises that have a positive effect on health have their origins in the Eastern schools of breathing and movement such as yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi. In the Western world, the psychologist Veening Cornelis (1885-1974) and the doctor and politician Johannes Ludwig Schmitt (1896-1963) were the main original proponents of respiratory therapy and breathing exercises. These principles were later developed by different students with different emphases. All approaches, however, focus on the same holistic view of the individual, from a physical, psychological and social perspective.

Breathing is the most important basic function of our body. The respiratory centre in the brain automatically controls the breathing process. However, breathing may be consciously or unconsciously influenced by experiences, thoughts and feelings. For example, our breathing is unconsciously restricted by stress, lack of exercise and poor posture, which can lead to reduced oxygen supply to and limited carbon dioxide removal from individual body areas and organs. Possible consequences include headaches, increased fatigue or tension, etc.

This is where breathing exercises come in: the aim is to achieve conscious awareness of breathing, which in turn has a positive effect on the entire respiratory function and ultimately leads to better oxygenation and relaxation.

Rediscovery of the natural breathing rhythm goes hand in hand with balanced body tension.

Relaxation exercise: abdominal breathing

Lie on your back or sit with your back straight. While learning the exercise, place your hands on your abdomen. Later, when you have developed a feel for breathing in this way, this will no longer be necessary.

Breathe in and out as evenly as possible and without any effort. The breathing should flow naturally. Breathe in and feel how your abdomen bulges outwards. First allow the air to flow into your abdomen and then into your chest. Breathe out by first releasing your chest and then your abdomen. The abdomen should move inward noticeably. When you have fully exhaled, only breathe in again if you feel the need to do so. This can take quite a few seconds. Be careful to inhale through the nose.

These abdominal breathing exercises increase the volume of air inhaled, so the body's oxygen supply is improved and relaxation begins. You may feel slightly dizzy at first. This feeling has to do with the increased oxygen supply, but you should quickly get back to feeling normal.

Take about 5-10 minutes several times a week to focus on abdominal breathing. Once you become more proficient at it, you can use the exercise on the train, at work or at home. With time you will get used to "correct" abdominal breathing and it will become automatic. This will make you feel more relaxed and calm overall.

Breathing exercises can be learned in the context of a course if necessary. As a contribution to health promotion and prevention, the Helsana Group will pay up to 75% of the costs of breathing exercise training courses - up to CHF 200 per calendar year - under the SANA and COMPLETA supplementary health insurances. Instructors must be recognised by the Helsana Group. The Customer Service team will be happy to advise you.

Autogenic training

"My arms and legs feel really heavy." This is how an autogenic training session begins.

You use the power of thought to relax - without any aids.

Autogenic training was developed in the 1920s by the German neurologist Johannes Heinrich Schultz. The aim of autogenic training is to be able to relax at will, in any place and at any time. Experience shows that the technique can be learned in about six months. Regular practice is an absolute necessity.

Autogenic training can be done in both a lying and sitting position, so it can easily be built into daily life, either lying down at home or sitting on the tram, train or bus.

Autogenic training consists of six basic exercises. You start with the exercise focusing on heaviness in the limbs, followed by warmth in the limbs, respiration, heart rate, abdominal warmth and finally coolness in the forehead. It is important to keep to the prescribed sequence of the exercises. You should allow yourself sufficient time to learn the techniques. One week of training is envisaged for each exercise.

The first three exercises may be performed by anyone, irrespective of their state of health. If you suffer from cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders, migraine or severe mental health problems, please consult your family doctor before trying the other three exercises (heart rate, abdominal warmth, coolness in the forehead).

Heaviness in the limbs

Focusing on a suggestion of heavy arms and legs and general physical heaviness promotes muscle relaxation.

Warmth in the limbs

Muscle relaxation leads to dilation of the blood vessels, which is perceived as warmth.

Respiration

This exercise focuses on observing your breathing.

Heart rate

This exercise focuses on conscious awareness of the heartbeat, by feeling the pulse at the wrist or with a hand on the chest.

Abdominal warmth

The previous exercises activate the gastrointestinal tract. This activation is perceived as warmth and movement in the abdomen and is enhanced by active observation.

Coolness in the forehead

The aim of this exercise is to imagine that the forehead is cool and clear.

If these exercises are mastered and executed in sequence, you will achieve physical and mental relaxation.

It is advisable to attend a course to learn autogenic training. This gives you the opportunity to share your experiences while practising the exercises with the course instructor and other course participants.

As a contribution to health promotion and prevention, the Helsana Group will pay up to 75% of the costs of autogenic training courses - up to CHF 200 per calendar year - under the SANA and COMPLETA supplementary health insurances. Instructors must be recognised by the Helsana Group. The Customer Service team will be happy to advise you.

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) was developed by Dr. E. Jacobson at the beginning of the 20th century. PMR is easy to learn, and its effectiveness has been proven by a number of scientific studies.

What is progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)?

PMR is based on the observation that muscles tighten up when we experience emotional tension. The exercises help to reduce muscle tension, pulse, blood pressure and breathing frequency, and lead to a pleasant state of relaxation.

How does PMR work?

When practising progressive relaxation according to Jacobson, you successively tense and relax different muscle groups of the body (e.g., arms, face, neck and shoulders, abdomen, back, legs) for 10 seconds each time. You should be consciously aware of relaxing your muscles and should feel this sensation in the body. The muscles now feel soft, loose and relaxed.

Repeat the tension after about 30 seconds. The resulting relaxation is felt and deepened "progressively" - in other words, increases steadily over time.

PMR can be learned by attending a course and may then be practised independently, possibly with the help of a practice CD. As with all relaxation methods, regular use in everyday life is key and crucial for success.

The Feldenkrais Method

The aim of the Feldenkrais Method is to enhance physical, emotional and mental well-being by improving physical awareness and movements.

The Feldenkrais Method was devised by the Israeli physicist and psychologist Moshé Feldenkrais (1904-1984). He was an ambitious judo athlete, but a knee injury at a young age inspired him to take a closer look at human anatomy and movement.

His core belief was that thought, feeling, perception and movement are closely interrelated and influence each other.

Movement patterns are created, according to his theory, by inheritance, education and self-training.

The Feldenkrais Method is based on support for self-training. The aim is to enhance physical, emotional and mental well-being through improved physical awareness and movement. The method can be learned in one-to-one lessons or in a group setting.

The Feldenkrais Method is suited to the treatment of many conditions including chronic pain, stress, tension, or simply to improve general well-being, and may be learned in the context of a course. As a contribution to health promotion and prevention, the Helsana Group will pay up to 75% of the costs of courses to learn the Feldenkrais Method - up to CHF 200 per calendar year - under the SANA and COMPLETA supplementary health insurances. Instructors must be recognised by the Helsana Group. The Customer Service team will be happy to advise you.

Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is based on the concept that posture, movement and thought patterns are all related. Through conscious self-perception these patterns may be detected and positively influenced. This holistic method is intended in particular to reduce psychosomatic disorders (stress) and develop natural posture and mobility

Frederic Matthias Alexander (1869-1955), an Australian actor, was suffering from voice loss which could not be cured using conventional therapeutic methods. As his worries about his health and his ability to earn a living gradually increased, he began to help himself. He discovered for himself that posture, movement and thought patterns are all interrelated. By selectively influencing his posture and movements he got his vocal problem under control.

On the basis of his experience he developed the Alexander Technique, which is now used as a method to promote health and as a therapy. The Alexander Technique helps a range of functional disorders - particularly related to the musculoskeletal system - for psychosomatic and stress-related disorders, breathing and vocal problems, chronic pain, consequences of sickness and accident, and makes an ideal complementary therapy during pregnancy and after childbirth. It has a soothing effect on body and mind and promotes quality of life.

The technique is founded on the assumption that habitual and harmful behaviour patterns may be prevented and replaced by new, healthier patterns. Learning physical awareness and improving coordination of movements and breath control are other important elements of the technique. The ideal is to have a posture that is as upright as possible whilst also being as relaxed as possible. The rhythm in Alexander Technique training is slow and meditative. The instructor works with verbal instructions and gentle, manual corrections. The Alexander Technique may be learned both in one-to-one lessons and in a group setting.

As a contribution to health promotion and prevention, the Helsana Group will pay up to 75% of the costs of Alexander Technique training courses or sessions - up to CHF 200 per calendar year - under the SANA and COMPLETA supplementary health insurances. Instructors must be recognised by the Helsana Group. The Customer Service team will be happy to advise you.

MBSR – eight-week course

MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) is becoming increasingly popular. This course promotes mindfulness in your day-to-day activities, leaves you calmer and helps reduce stress and anxiety.

The MBSR course, which runs for eight weeks, places the focus on mindfulness. Mindfulness is about remaining in the present moment and being attentive. You learn not to get caught up in your thoughts, make judgements or fall prey to worries or anxiety.

The course is suitable for people who feel they are under stress at work or at home, are living with acute or chronic illnesses, are suffering from chronic pain, have psychosomatic problems (disturbed sleep or digestive problems, for example) or whose lives are marred by anxieties or resentments.

Do you want to work on changing your situation and make an active contribution to maintaining or regaining your health? If so, an eight-week MBSR course is a worthwhile self-help training programme.

You will receive up to 75% of the cost of an eight-week MBSR course from the supplemental insurance SANA and COMPLETA, up to CHF 200 per calendar year, provided that the course leaders are members of the MSBR Association of Switzerland (MBSR-Verband Schweiz).