Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive Muscle Relaxation is the intentional tensing and releasing of various muscle groups to restore a sense of relaxation and calm to your body and is a great technique for stress reduction. It is suggested to hold the tension in a muscle group for 7-10 seconds. If you have any pain or discomfort at a targeted muscle group, feel free to skip that step. It can also be helpful to close your eyes and visualize the muscles tensing as you go though the exercise. As you release tension, imagine a wave of relaxation flowing over the muscle group. Remember to keep breathing throughout the entire exercise. You may tend to unconsciously hold your breath as you tense, but keep breathing normally through the tension.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation Script
Find a comfortable position either sitting in a chair or lying down somewhere where you will not be interrupted. Allow your attention to focus solely on your body. If your mind wanders, that is okay, just bring your attention back to the muscle you are working on.
Begin by focusing on your breath for 3 deep belly breaths. It can help to put your hand on your belly as it rises and falls. Breathe in through your nose, and put through your mouth.
Inhale “I am,” exhale “calm.”
Tighten the muscles in your forehead by raising your eyebrows as high as you can. Imagine your eyebrows are reaching for your hairline. Hold and breathe- then relax.
Close your eyes as tightly as you can. Hold and breathe- then relax.
Now smile as widely as you can to engage your mouth. Hold and breathe- then relax. Imagine a wave of relaxation emanating from your face.
Tilt your head back to stretch your neck. Hold and breathe- then relax. Bring your head to a natural relaxed position and feel the weight of your relaxed head and neck.
Next, let your shoulders rise up to your ears and hold them tightly. Feel the tension in your shoulders and hold. Breathe naturally, then relax.
Next, tighten your shoulder blades by trying to bring them together. Imagine your elbows can touch behind your back. Hold while breathing, then relax.
Feel the stress lifting off your shoulders...
Curl your arms to engage your biceps and squeeze tightly as you flex. Hold and breathe- then relax. Imagine a wave of relaxation running down your arms and through your body.
Squeeze your hands into fists and hold the squeeze. Hold and breathe- and relax.
Feel yourself letting go of all your stress...
Suck in your stomach to engage your abdomen and your core muscles. Hold this tightly for a moment. Breathe and relax. Feel your stomach relaxing to a neutral state.
Now arch your lower back by pushing back from the hips. Imagine you are trying to push your toosh out into the bed or the chair. Hold the tension and breathe, then relax.
Now squeeze your toosh. Engage your posterior muscles and hold the tension. Breathe and relax, feeling your hips and pelvis relax.
Feel the tension melting away...
Squeeze your thigh muscles from your hips to your knees. If you are sitting, imagine you are pushing away from your knees without engaging your calves. Hold and breathe- and release.
Curl your feet up to engage your calves in a good stretch. Hold the tension. Breathe and relax.
Now curl your toes under your feet so you feel your toes touching the bottom of your feet. Hold and breathe- then relax.
Do a body scan to see if any muscles are still carrying tension. If you need to, return to these areas and tense and release them again, following the script.
Finally, take 3 deep breaths. Inhale "I am," exhale "calm."
Feel the weight of your body on the chair, or the weight of your body on the bed. Imagine a wave of relaxation washing over you. Feel the inviting calm. Your tension has melted away.
You can use this progressive muscle relaxation technique any time you are feeling stressed or anxious, or when you want to experience deep relaxation. Ask your partner or a friend to read this to you and guide you through the exercise. You could even record yourself reading the script and play it back to yourself when you practice. This exercise is especially useful to use before you go to sleep at night as it helps your body to relax into a deep sleep.
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