Lose the Tension: A Tried and True Way To Relax the Body and Mind


When stress settles into our muscles as tension, a progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) technique can help us return our body to a calm state.

PMR is a simple two-step process of alternately tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body. It can be done sitting in an office chair, when commuting by train or bus, or while lying in bed.

People who regularly practice PMR become sensitive to the sensation of tension in all areas of their body. They learn to counteract the tension before it settles into a muscle as pain or stiffness. Some individuals combine controlled breathing with their PMR practice to achieve a deeper state of relaxation.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Consult with your physician before practicing PMR if you have back problems, muscle spasms or any serious injuries that could be aggravated by the tensing of your muscles.

  1. Get comfortable; if possible, loosen your clothing and take off your shoes.
  2. Start to relax by taking several slow, deep breaths; when you exhale, breath out tension, stress or anxiety.
  3. As you start to feel calmer, put your attention on your right foot and notice how it feels.
  4. Gradually tense the muscles in that foot; squeeze them as tightly as you can for a count of 10. If you do not like to count, slowly say (or sing) "do-ra-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do" to yourself.
  5. Now relax your right foot. Sense the tension flowing or draining away until the foot feels loose or limp. Enjoy this feeling for a few moments; breathe deeply and slowly.
  6. Shift your attention to your left foot and repeat the steps of noticing tension, contracting or tensing the muscles, relaxing the muscles and enjoying the release.
  7. Move slowly up through the rest of your body, squeezing and releasing the different muscle groups.

The Muscle Groups

If you prefer to start with the left foot instead of the right, go ahead.

  1. Right foot and left foot
  2. Right calf and left calf
  3. Right thigh and left thigh
  4. Hips and buttocks
  5. The stomach
  6. The chest
  7. The back, or lower back and upper back
  8. Right hand/arm and left hand/arm
  9. Neck and shoulders
  10. Face

As the body releases tension, the mind will calm. When the mind is tranquil, the body remains relaxed.

Source: Help Guide


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