Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is an effective technique used to alleviate bodily stress.

It’s not as simple to master as other techniques, but with perseverence you can quickly become accomplished at focusing your attention on different muscle groups in your body and mastering the ability to flex and relax muscles. Sometimes ‘finding’ muscles you never knew you had.

You work through muscle groups, tensing and relaxing them one at a time.

A session of progressive muscle relaxation would normally take 20 minutes. It is best performed either lying down or sitting.

Those who are experienced will create their own routine, and may then listen to relaxing music. New practitioners could benefit from an audiotape to guide them the routine until it becomes second nature.

The Principle

The principle is straightforward;

Tense the muscles and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Do not strain.
Relax the muscles for 10 to 20 seconds. Release all tension.

The best approach is to release the tension for twice the length time you tensed for. If you are tensing for 5 seconds, release for 10. If you are tensing for 10 seconds, release for 20.

Mindfulness is the key here. Whether you have practiced meditation or not, try to pay attention to the muscle groups you are exercising.

There are two approaches;

One side at a time

You can work through one side of the body at a time. Either work up (feet, legs, arms, shoulders) or down in the oposite order. Then repeat on the other side of your body.

Both sides together

You do feet on both sides, calves on both sides, thighs one both sides etc etc. This method takes less time to complete, it would allow you to work your way back down the body again at the end.

Sample Progressive Muscle Relaxation Program

The following program is best performed lying down.

Body Part Instruction Tense/Release
Feet Raise toes to point back towards legs Tense for 5 seconds, then release for 10 seconds
Feet Point toes and then curl under Tense for 5 seconds, then release for 10 seconds
Calves Push out balls of feet to tense calf muscles Tense for 5 seconds, then release for 10 seconds
Thighs List heels off ground, tense thigh muscles Tense for 5 seconds, then release for 10 seconds
Glutes Tense buttock together to raise yourself up Tense for 5 seconds, then release for 10 seconds
Torso Tense abdominal muscles, breathe out slowly Tense for 5 seconds, then release for 10 seconds
Back Roll onto your front and raise head and shoulders off the ground Tense for 5 seconds, then release for 10 seconds
Chest Whilst on your back, bring arms in slightly and squeeze pectoral muscles Tense for 5 seconds, then release for 10 seconds
Hands Clench fists tight Tense for 5 seconds, then release for 10 seconds
Fore Arms Extend arms out and pull wrists back trying to get your little finger towards your elbow Tense for 5 seconds, then release for 10 seconds
Upper Arms Bend arms and tense bicep muscle Tense for 5 seconds, then release for 10 seconds
Neck / Shoulders BPush chin down and extend neck Tense for 5 seconds, then release for 10 seconds
Site Updated: June 3rd, 2020
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