Relaxation is a skill like any other which needs to be learned and takes time. The following exercise teaches deep muscle relaxation, and many people find it very helpful in reducing overall levels of tension.
Deep muscle relaxation
It is helpful to read the instructions first and eventually to learn them by heart. Start by selecting a quiet, warm, comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed. Choose a time of day when you feel most relaxed to begin, then lie down and get comfortable. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing for a few minutes, breathing slowly and calmly – in-two-three and out-two-three. Say the word “calm” or “relax” to yourself as you breath out. The relaxation exercise takes you through different muscle groups, teaching you firstly to tense, then relax. You should breathe in when tensing and breathe out when you relax.
Start with your hands. Clench one fist tightly, and think about the tension this produces in the muscles of your hand and forearm.Study the tension for a few seconds then relax your hand. Notice the difference between the tension and the relaxation. You might feel a slight tingling, this is the relaxation beginning to develop. Do the same with the other hand.
Each time you relax a group of muscles think how they feel when they are relaxed. Don’t try to relax but just let go of the tension. Allow your muscles to relax as much as you can. Think about the difference in the way they feel when they are relaxed and when they’re tense. Now do the same for the other muscles of your body. Each time tense them for a few seconds and then relax. Study the way they feel and then let go of the tension in them.
It is useful to stick to the same order as you work through the muscle groups:
Hands – clench fists, then relax.
Arms – bend your elbows and tense your arms. Feel the tension especially in your upper arms. Remember, do this for a few seconds and then relax.
Neck – press your head back and roll it from side to side slowly. Feel how the tension moves. Then bring your head forward into a comfortable position.
Face – there are severe muscles here, but it is enough to think about your forehead and jaw, first lower your eyebrows in a frown. Relax your forehead. You can also raise your eyebrows, and then relax. Now, clench your jaw, notice the difference when you relax.
Shoulders – shrug your shoulders up – then relax them.
Chest – take a deep breath, hold it in for a few seconds, notice the tension, then relax. Let your breathing return to normal.
Stomach – tense your stomach muscles as tightly as you can and relax.
Buttocks – squeeze your buttocks together and relax.
Legs – straighten your legs and bend your feet towards your face then relax.
You may find it helpful to get a friend to read the instructions to you. Don’t try too hard, just let it happen.
To make best use of relaxation you need to:
- · Practise daily.· Start to use relaxation in everyday situations.
- · Learn to relax without having to tense your muscles first.
- · Use parts of relaxation to help in difficult situations, eg breathing slowly.
- · Develop a more relaxed lifestyle.
- · Practise in public situations (on bus, in queue etc)