Monday, 16 January 2012

Progressive muscle relaxation

Many of you may have heard of this before, and many of you may be completely new to this subject.

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique involving the tensing and relaxing of various muscle groups as a way to relieve stress and induce relaxation. PMR was developed in the 1920’s by Edmund Jacobson.

The theory behind the practice is that because muscular tension accompanies mental anxiety and stress, then the opposite (loose, relaxed muscles) will induce relaxation.

In order to properly begin a PMR session – find a comfortable sitting or lying position where you will be undisturbed for 20-30 minutes. It is also nice if you have some soft instrumental music playing (nothing too exciting, just something relaxing).

As with the deep-breathing exercise, I want you to close your eyes.

You may start the breathing exercise as a warm-up for the PMR. Ideally, if you can maintain your breathing during the PMR you will find the most benefit, but in the beginning, do not be discouraged if you find yourself unable to maintain your breathing patterns. This will come with practice.

As you lie or sit there with your eyes closed I want you to feel your body. This may be frightening, as you might be feeling very anxious and focusing on the feeling of your body may exacerbate this, but bear with me.

Next, tighten up all the muscles in all parts of your body and hold for 10 seconds, maintaining your deep-breathing, in and out.

Then release all the muscles of your body, focusing on the warmth and heaviness of them as they relax from the tension. Feel the stress releasing as you relax your muscles.

Do this body-tensing 2 or 3 three times.

Next, after the last relaxing, tense only the muscles in your toes, then your ankles and calves, then your thighs, your hips and butt, your hands, forearms, upper arms, stomach chest and face muscles. Hold this tension for 5-10 seconds. Then slowly release all of those muscles in the backwards order – face first, chest, stomach, hands and arms, then finally thighs and lower legs.

Do this 3 or so times. Finish again with 2-3 full body tenses and relaxes.
Focus on your breathing for another 5-10 minutes, practicing deep, belly-breaths.

The key here is not to rush the tension and relaxing. Slower is better.

You should feel more relaxed after this exercise, but if you are new to breathing or relaxation exercises, you might not feel much different. However, with practice, relaxation will be attainable. You will find yourself eventually doing these tension and relaxation exercises subconsciously in stressful periods.

If you would like to read more about mindfulness and relaxation read this article on thought-monitoring and this one on practicing mindfulness as ways to centre yourself during stressful periods!

Conquer on!

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