Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) was originally developed by Dr. Edmund Jacobson in the 1920”s. It has since been utilized in the treatment of anxiety, stress reduction, and anger management. PMR applies systematic muscle tensing and relaxing to increase awareness of the stress and tension we carry in our bodies. With daily practice you will experience a gradual decrease in stress and body tension. Read through the process below first and then work slowly and methodically through each step. Initially, this practice may only take eight to ten minutes. As you repeat this you may find that you want or need more time to fully relax. This also makes a great bedtime routine for unwinding and calming.
For this practice it is best to start by lying down in a comfortable and relatively quiet place. Turn off your phone and reduce other distractions as much as possible. Gently close your eyes and take three deep full-body breaths as described in “Just Breathe” quietly saying to yourself “breathing in calm, exhaling letting go”.
Next, turn your awareness inward, making mental note of body tension, tightness, or discomfort. Breathe deeply to these areas imagining oxygen spreading warmth and relaxation throughout your body.
Now, turn your attention to your toes and feet. Inhale deeply and slightly lift your heels, gently flex and point your toes. With your exhalation relax and allow your feet to gently drop. Working upwards, take a deep inhalation and tightening your calf muscles. With your exhalation relax your legs.
Next tighten your thighs and buttocks with your inhalation. As you exhale and relax these muscles, imagine your body slightly sinking into your resting place as you let go of tension and tightness in your legs, feet, and lower back.
Now breathing in deeply, tighten your abdominal muscles. With your exhalation imagine letting go of tension and stress you hold internally. With your following breath, breathe deeply into the lower portion of your lungs expanding your rib cage for a “full body” breath. Release your breath slowly and gently noticing the gentle rise and fall of your chest.
Next, while inhaling deeply, draw your shoulders up toward your ears. Exhale and release your shoulders and any neck tension. Repeat this step if you experience shoulder and neck tension.
Moving next to your face, with separate inhalations and exhalations, tighten your jaw, scrunch your nose and squeeze your eyes shut, and finally, raise your eyebrows as high as you can.
Now, breathe normally and imagine your face smooth and relaxed, your neck and shoulders relaxed, and work your way mentally back down your body. Don’t become overly concerned with remaining tension after this exercise. This takes repeated practice to become fully productive. You may want to try relaxing music or quiet nature sounds or even aromatherapy to enhance your level of comfort and calm. With each practice I hope you find it gets easier to attain relief from some of your tension and physical stress.