Relaxation Technique Two: Progressive Muscular Relaxation

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Relaxation Technique Two: Progressive Muscular Relaxation

This is article two on Relaxation techniques. The first offered you the technique for Deep Breathing.  If you want to get yourself into a supportive mental state, feel physically vibrant and totally alive, then you need to be using relaxation techniques. By using them, you will create for yourself a physical and mental “peak state”, as well as being able to retain a positive mental attitude throughout the day.

You need to realise that the way you feel emotionally affects the way you feel physically. Alternatively, the way you feel physically affects the way you feel emotionally.

When you relax, your muscles loosen, blood pressure lowers and the heartbeat slows down. It is the totally opposite response to that of stress. It is without doubt a far more beneficial and enjoyable state to be in. In this section I will introduce you to methods and techniques that will enable you to relax. You must practice the techniques you wish to use, because it does take time for you to get them just right. But the time it takes to acquire the ability to use these techniques to relax will be worth it for the undoubted benefits it will bring you.

I thought these techniques were “strange” at first; well in truth that may be a bit of an understatement. I was extremely resistant, unable to accept that such simple methods would be able to calm my mind, control my thoughts and help me get back on track, after all that had happened to me. But those helping me through these days were persistent, patient and determined to see me through. I’m glad they were. It was these techniques that produced the most dramatic changes in my stressful life!

This is one of my favourite techniques, and I feel one of the most important in your armoury against the effects of stress. I have found this relaxation technique a tremendous way to calm my body and mind, helping me to experience a less stressful state. You will also find it benefits you in all areas of your life. My suggestion to you is – make the time for relaxation, set aside time for it every day. It will make a world of difference.

When you don’t make the time for relaxation, your stress remains unhindered, creating higher and higher levels of stress hormones within your body; your blood pressure rises; your memory declines, as do the healing processes in your body. Without finding time for relaxation, you will suffer from physical, emotional and mental stress.

So a relaxation technique is essential if you are to reach your true potential and enjoy a feeling of wellbeing and relaxation rather than feeling overwhelmed. Relax deeply once a day for 15-20 minutes. Even if you can’t manage every day, you will soon notice how much better you feel and how much more capable you are when following this method.

I truly believe that you can’t afford to find excuses for not incorporating relaxation time into your life. It needs to become part of your lifestyle. Once it has become a regular habit, you will never stop, because the results you’ll see will leave you in no doubt of the benefits of doing this simple exercise.

A Relaxation technique is any method or activity that helps a person to relax; to attain a state of increased calmness; or otherwise reduce levels of anxiety, stress or tension. Relaxation techniques can help to decrease muscle tension, lower the blood pressure and slow heart and breath rates, among other health benefits.

There are so many benefits of using a relaxation technique; here are just a few:

  • Advances rest, healing and recovery
  • Calms your mind
  • Develops coping skills
  • Enables you to think more clearly and perform well even when under pressure.
  • Guards you against mental health problems
  • Helps memory and learning
  • Improves immune system
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces tension in your muscles
  • Relieves your emotional state

The technique I use is Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), which is the combination of deep breathing with the intentional contraction and relaxation of muscles to bring about relaxation. It’s a very simple technique, where you first tense a muscle, tightly contracting it, keeping it under intense tension for a short time. Then you relax your muscle normally, and then consciously relax the muscle even further.

A good way of demonstrating this is:

Make a fist, and clench your hand tightly as possible for a few seconds. Then relax your hand, followed by intentionally relaxing it again so that it is as slack as possible. You will experience a deep relaxation in your hand.

With the Progressive Muscle Relaxation technique you will relax your muscles through a simple two-step procedure.

1. You intentionally tense a specific muscle.

2. You deliberately discontinue the tension and let the tension flow away as you relax the muscle.

You are going to do one sequence of tension and one of relaxation for each muscle.

Tip

Throughout this exercise you will be alternately tensing a muscle and then relaxing it. By doing this your muscle will be much more relaxed than it was at the start of the exercise. Concentrate your attention on how the muscle feels at all times, feeling the reduction in tension after relaxation.

Keep your breathing natural throughout. Hold the muscle tension for 10 seconds… 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, 7000, 8000. 9000, 10000. Do the same for muscle relaxation.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique

  • Choose a quiet place where you will have a minimum amount of disturbance.
  • Sit in a chair, get comfortable, while keeping your back straight and upright to prevent your mind from becoming lethargic or drowsy.
  • Now stay very still and quiet, with no distractions around. Your body should be comfortable and relaxed.
  • Partially close your eyes, leaving them only slightly open to allow enough light in to keep your brain alert in order to avoid sleep mode setting in.
  • Turn your entire attention and focus to your breathing. Allow yourself to breathe naturally. Don’t try to adjust your breathing. Don’t consciously try to make any changes. Just let yourself breath. Keep observing your breath.
  • Breathe in through your nose, hold it for a second, and then slowly breathe out through your mouth. As you take each breath out, feel yourself going deeper and deeper into a state of relaxation. Breathe in and out, in and out. Relax
  • Empty your mind of all its thoughts. Just let it quieten down. Let your thoughts gradually quieten down.
  • Sense your body as a whole, including the places where it contacts the surface of the seat. Notice how your body feels at this precise moment. Observe which body parts feel tense and which ones feel relaxed.
  • Concentrate on your breathing, hold this focus for a couple of minutes.
  • Take a deep breath in. Then a full breath out. Keep these going for a minute. Deep breathe in. Then a full breath out. Notice any sensations in your nostrils. Sense the feelings as you breathe in through your nose and then out through your mouth.
  • Take a deep breath in for the count of three, 1001, 1002, 1003. Tense as many of the muscles in your body as you can for the count of three, 1001, 1002, 1003.  Now exhale by pushing out all your breath, and relax all the tension you can feel for the count of three, 1001, 1002, 1003.  Feel how great it is to be relaxed.
  • Now you are going to work through your muscles one by one. Tensing each muscle group. Let go slowly, feel the tension drain away, and blood flowing freely, keep breathing.
  • Forehead – Start by wrinkling, tightening your forehead into a frown, tense it up. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Eyebrows – Now raise your eyebrows as high as you can. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Eyes – Now open your eyes as wide as you can and stare at a point on the ceiling. Keeping your head still little by little move your eyes to the right as far as they will go, then return back to centre. Then  little by little move your eyes to the left as far as they will go, then return back to centre. Now squeeze both eyes tight shut. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Mouth – Now turn your attentions to your mouth and open your mouth as wide as possible.  Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body. Bring your lips tightly together. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Teeth – Now clench your teeth together tightly. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Tongue – Open your mouth wide, and extend your tongue out as far as you can. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release bringing it back into your throat resting it at the base of your mouth. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Jaw  –  Close up your jaw muscles tightly, press together bringing your back teeth clasped together. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Chin – Drop your chin down toward your chest slowly. You will feel the tension in your neck and shoulders. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Face – squeeze up your face making a scowl and hold it there. As you squeeze together your eyes, mouth and nose let the tension build. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Hands & Arms – Make a tight fist with your right hand, really clench it. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release by extending the fingers. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body. Lift your right arm up to about the height of your shoulder, and extend it fully out. As you bend your hand back at the wrist and keep your arm stretched. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release your arm and let it drop slowly down at your side. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body. Now raise your right lower arm from the elbows to fingers, keeping the upper arm still, make your bicep muscle tense, bulging. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release drop your arm limp back to the side of your body. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body. Lift your right arm straight up, and bend it backwards at the elbow, feel your tricep muscle, contract the muscle more. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release drop your arm limp back to the side of your body. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Repeat for other side: Now make tight fist with your left hand,, really clench it. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release by extending the fingers. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body. Now lift your left arm up to about the height of your shoulder, and extend it fully out. As you bend your hand back at the wrist and keep your arm stretched. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release your arm and let it drop slowly down at your side. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body. Now raise your left lower arm from the elbows to fingers, keeping the upper arm still, make your bicep muscle tense, bulging. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release drop your arm limp back to the side of your body. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body. Lift your left arm straight up, and bend it backwards at the elbow, feel your triceps  muscle, contract the muscle more. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release drop your arm limp back to the side of your body. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Neck (lateral)    – Keeping your shoulders relaxed and straight, turn your head slowly to the right, as far as you can. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release, return to centre. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body. Then turn your head slowly to the left, as far as you can. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release, return to centre. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Neck (forward) – Drop your chin down toward your chest slowly.  Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release, raise up your head. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Neck (Back). Now tensing your back of neck by stretching your head up as if your chin could touch the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Shoulders – Curl your Shoulders back and up towards your ears. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Chest – Now tighten your Chest Muscles. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Back – Push the small of your Back towards whatever surface you are sitting or lying on. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Arch your spine, tighten it from top to bottom. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Stomach – Suck in your stomach tight as far as you can, as though you were preparing to take a punch in the stomach.. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Buttocks – Tense the butt tightly, clench your Buttocks together and try to raise pelvis slightly off surface. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Legs – Lift your right leg, while you tense both your thigh and calf muscle and pull your toes in toward you. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release let your leg back down. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body. Now, point your toes and curl them under on your right foot. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Repeat for other side: Now, raise your left leg, while you tense both your thigh and calf muscle and pull your toes in toward you. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release let your leg back down. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body. Now, point your toes and curl them under on your left foot. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Now lift both your legs together, tightening both  your calf and thigh muscles as you point out your toes straight ahead as far as you can. Hold for 10 seconds. Let the tension build. Now release let your leg back down. Say ‘Let go’ and relax. Focus on the relaxing feeling for 10 seconds. Let the tension flow out of your body.
  • Whole body  – Clasp your feet and fists. Draw your shoulders up. Squeeze in your jaw and face. Now at the same time contract your entire body. Hold it for as long as you can until you feel your body tremble. Then say ‘Let go’ – let yourself go…
  • For the next couple of minutes, go over in your mind all your muscles. Sense how each muscle feels throughout your body. Experience how relaxed and rested each muscle feels.  Sense the restfulness that you now feel from having released the tension in your muscles.
  • Close your eyes. In your mind see yourself peacefully lying on a beautiful sun drenched beach.  Safe and at peace. Repeat to yourself, ‘I am in a relaxed state now… my legs are relaxed… my buttocks are relaxed, my thighs are relaxed, my abdomen is relaxed… my back is relaxed, my  arms are relaxed, my  shoulders are relaxed , my jaw is relaxed , my face is relaxed and my eyes are relaxed… I feel no tension.
  • Take a long deep full breath, 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005. Now hold this for a count of two, 1001, 1002, and now let out all the air feeling any remaining stress just float away
  • To bring yourself out of this relaxed state, start to count slowly from one to ten. 1 … 2 … 3 .. 4 … 5 … 6 … 7 … 8 … now open your eyes, 9 … 10 … You now feel fully awake and totally alert. Stand up, stretch out, and feel great.

This simple technique will not only improve your physical well being, but will improve your mental state by reducing stress, anxiety, irritability, and depression. Trust me here, this is a MUST DO for your stress management tool box. This is an awesome technique.

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About the author: Larry Lewis
My name is Larry Lewis, Health & Wellness Life Coach, Founder of Healthy Lifestyles Living, contributor to the Huffington Post, recently featured in the Sunday Mail Newspaper and somebody who went from being an owner of a chain of gyms and fitness fanatic, to a visually impaired overweight and incredibly sick person. Read about my illness to wellness story.
13 Comments
  1. Janaki Nagaraj October 14, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    This is too good. Thanks.

    • LarryLewis October 18, 2011 at 11:26 am

      Janaki use them well

  2. Nelieta October 14, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    You are giving some great tips here Larry! Something that I need to print and read carefully. Thank you for sharing.

    • LarryLewis October 18, 2011 at 11:25 am

      Nelieta it is my complete pleasure, and i hope you get fantastic benefit from bringing relaxation techniques into your life

  3. Alpana Jaiswal October 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I have book marked this page,then can I follow this religiously….thanks a lot for this GREAT post.

    • LarryLewis October 18, 2011 at 11:27 am

      Alpana they are here for you whenever you want. This is your blog, you are my friend and a very special lady who with the right tools will get stronger and stronger

  4. Martha Orlando October 14, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Such fabulous detail here! Yes, we all need to learn to relax and these are some simple and achievable techniques.
    Thanks so much, Larry!
    Blessings!

    • LarryLewis October 18, 2011 at 11:29 am

      Martha you have hit the nail on the head here, the beauty of relaxation is the simplicity of it all. We just have to use them

  5. Ruth October 15, 2011 at 9:47 am

    I love how much detail you’ve gone into here. I use this technique all the time, and it helps me so much.

    I started to use it a lot when I couldn’t sleep, and the only problem is that I started to associate this relaxation technique with insomnia. So that’s why I think it’s a great idea to try doing it once a day, that way you get used to relaxing and don’t associate it with a state of stress or anxiety to begin with.

    • LarryLewis October 18, 2011 at 11:31 am

      Ruth a brilliant point. We should set aside a time every day where we use these relaxation techniques so we create a habit of using it, and not associate it with any of our woes.

  6. Kim Burnette October 15, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Love this Larry! I was taught this before but have never really used it and actually need it right now big time! The detail is really helpful. Have a wonderful day! Kim

    • LarryLewis October 18, 2011 at 11:33 am

      Kim i’m pleased and know this will help you

  7. CoachMarieWetmore January 30, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Hey, just wanted to thank you for posting this, I’m always looking for ideas to help my clients with stress. Gotta trigger that relaxation response. I don’t know if anyone would find this useful, but here’s a link to an article about progressive muscle relaxation and a downloadable audio PMR exercise:http://mariewetmore.com/2012/01/30/relaxation-audio-progressive-muscle-relaxation-script-an-exercise-to-reduce-stress/

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