The purpose of progressive muscle relaxation is to focus on body sensations and how relaxation feels by systematically tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups in your body.
Tip: Make a tape recording of this exercise so that you can use it when you need to. Be sure to leave yourself time on the tape to tense and relax your muscles.
Find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. You can do this exercise either lying on your back or sitting in a chair, as long as you are comfortable.
Close your eyes. Now clench your right fist as tightly as you can. Be aware of the tension as you do so. Keep your fist clenched for a moment. Now relax. Feel the looseness in your right hand and compare it to the tension you felt previously. Tense your right fist again, then relax it; notice the difference between tension and relaxation.
Now clench your left fist as tightly as you can. Be aware of the tension as you do so. Keep your fist clenched for a moment. Now relax. Feel the looseness in your left hand and compare it to the tension you felt previously. Tense your left fist again, relax it, and again notice the difference.
Bend your elbows and tense your biceps as hard as you can. Notice the feeling of tightness. Relax and straighten out your arms. Let the relaxation flow through your arms and compare it to the tightness you felt before. Tense and relax your biceps again.
Wrinkle your forehead as tightly as you can. Now relax it and let it smooth out. Feel your forehead and scalp becoming relaxed. Now frown and notice the tension spreading through your forehead again. Relax and allow your forehead to become smooth.
Close your eyes and squint them very tightly. Feel the tension. Now relax your eyes. Tense and relax your eyes again. Now let them remain gently closed.
Now clench your jaw, bite hard, and feel the tension. Now relax your jaw. Your lips will be slightly parted. Notice the difference. Clench and relax your jaw again.
Press your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Now relax. Do this again. Pay attention to the difference between tension and relaxation.
- Press and purse your lips together. Now relax them. Repeat this.
- Feel the relaxation throughout your forehead, scalp, eyes, jaw, tongue, and lips.
- Roll your head to the right as far as it can comfortably go, and observe the tightness. Roll your head to the left and notice how the tension moves and changes. Now straighten your head and bring it forward, pressing your chin against your chest. Notice the tension in your throat and the back of your neck. Now relax and allow your shoulders to return to a comfortable position. Allow yourself to feel more and more relaxed. Now shrug your shoulders and hunch your head down between them. Relax your shoulders. Allow them to drop back, and feel the relaxation moving through your neck, throat, and shoulders; feel the lovely, very deep relaxation. Do this again.
- Give your whole body a chance to relax. Feel how comfortable and heavy it is. Breathe in and fill your lungs completely. Hold your breath and notice the tension. Let your breath out and let your chest become loose. Continue relaxing, breathing gently in and out. Repeat this breathing several times and notice the tension draining out of your body.
- Tighten your stomach and hold the tightness. Feel the tension. Now relax your stomach. Place your hand on your stomach and breathe deeply into your stomach, pushing your hand up. Hold for a moment and then relax. Now arch your back without straining, keeping the rest of your body as relaxed as possible. Notice the tension in your lower back. Now relax deeper and deeper.
- Tighten your buttocks and thighs. Flex your thighs by pressing your heels down as hard as you can. Relax and notice the difference. Do this again. Curl your toes down, making your calves tense. Notice the tension. Relax. Bend your toes toward your face, creating tension in your shins. Relax and notice the difference.
- Feel the heaviness throughout your lower body as the relaxation gets deeper and deeper. Relax your feet, ankles, calves, shins, knees, thighs, and buttocks. Let the relaxation spread to your stomach, lower back, and chest. Let go more and more. Experience deeper and deeper relaxation in your shoulders, arms, and hands, deeper and deeper. Notice the feeling of looseness and relaxation in your neck, jaws, and your facial muscles.