Progressive Muscle Relaxation

 

Progressive muscle relaxation is a systematic technique for achieving a deep state of relaxation. It was developed by Dr. Edmund Jacobson more than 50 years ago, and he wrote a book entitled “Progressive Relaxation”. Jacobson discovered that a muscle could be relaxed by first tensing it for a few seconds, and then releasing it.

 

Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing, in succession, different muscle groups in your body. The idea is to tense each muscle for about 5 seconds, and then to let go of it suddenly. Then you give yourself about 10 seconds of relaxation, and notice how the muscle feels when it is relaxed in contrast to how it felt when it was tensed. Maintain your focus on how your muscles feel.

 

Progressive muscle relaxation is especially useful for people whose anxiety is strongly associated with muscle tension. These people may experience chronic tightness or tension in their neck and shoulders. Other symptoms that respond well to progressive muscle relaxation include tension headaches, backaches, tightness in the jaw, muscle spasms, high blood pressure and insomnia.  

 

The following guidelines will help you make the most of progressive muscle relaxation:

 

·        Practice at least 20 minutes per day. Two 20-minute periods are preferable.

 

·        Find a quiet location where you won’t be distracted. Assume a comfortable position. Your entire body, including your head, should be supported. Lie down or sit comfortably in a reclining chair that completely supports your body. Make sure to loosen any tight clothing.

 

·       Make a decision not to worry about anything. Give yourself permission to relax.

 

·        It is recommended that you do the exercises with your eyes closed.

 

·        Before you begin, take 3-5 abdominal breaths. As you exhale, imagine that your body tension is flowing away.

 

·        For each muscle group, hold the tension for about 5 seconds, then relax for 10 seconds. Notice the difference between the tension and the relaxation.  Use this same time interval for each muscle group.

 

·        Repeat the exercise for each muscle group at least twice before going on to the next muscle group.

 

Follow these steps to relax each major muscle group in your body:

 

  1. Make a fist with your right hand. Focus on the tension in your lower right arm. Hold it (for 5 seconds). Now relax (for 10 seconds). Notice the difference between tension and relaxation. Repeat.

 

  1. Make a fist with your right hand and raise it towards your shoulders to tighten your biceps. Focus on the tension in your arm. Hold it. Now relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Make a fist with your left hand. Focus on the tension in your lower left arm. Hold it. Now relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Make a fist with your left hand and raise it towards your shoulders to tighten your biceps. Focus on the tension in your arm. Hold it. Now relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Focus your attention on your face. Raise your eyebrows as far as you can. Hold it. Now relax. Imagine your forehead muscles becoming smooth and limp as they relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Tense the muscles around your eyes by clenching your eyelids tightly shut. Hold it. Now relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Clench your jaw. Bite your teeth down. Hold it. Now relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Direct your attention to your neck. Push your chin down to touch your chest. Feel the tension in the front and back of your neck. Hold it. Now relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Tighten the muscles in your neck by pulling your head way back, as if you were going to touch your head to your back. But be gentle. Focus on tensing the muscles in your neck. Hold it. Now relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Tighten your shoulders by raising then up as it you were going to touch your ears. Feel the tension in your shoulders. Hold it. Now relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Tighten the muscles in your shoulder blades by pushing your shoulder blades back as if you were going to touch them together. Hold the tension. Now relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Focus your attention on your chest. Take a deep breath. Hold it. Feel the tension in your chest and stomach. Let go, exhale completely. Relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Focus on your abdomen. Tighten your stomach muscles. Focus on the tension in your stomach muscles. Hold it. Now relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Focus on your hips and buttocks. Imagine you’re about to sit on something very delicate. Tighten your hips and buttocks. Hold it. Focus on the tension. Now relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Tense both calves and thigh muscles by raising your heels. Feel the tension in your legs. Hold it. Now relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Focus your attention on your feet. Tighten your toes by curling them downward. Feel the tension in your feet. Hold it. Now relax. Repeat.

 

  1. Take 3-5 abdominal breaths.

 

  1. Imagine a wave of relaxation slowly spreading throughout your body, starting at your head and gradually penetrating every muscle group all the way down to your toes.

 

  1. Count backwards from 5 to 0.

 

  1. When you get to zero, open your eyes and stretch a bit.

 

 

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