Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that can help you to relax and unwind by tensing and releasing the muscles. It can be used for relaxing throughout the day, or for helping your body to relax when you’re trying to sleep. With continuous practice, you will understand which muscles are directly linked to relaxation, and which have a close connection to stress and anxiety. You will also come to know which muscles you need to relax to overcome stress.
Deep breathing exercises can be used simultaneously with the progressive muscle relaxation. Deep breathing can be performed while you inhale while the contraction of your muscles take place, and exhale while they are being relaxed. The basic idea behind progressive muscle relaxation is to get yourself familiar with which muscles are used while you are tensed, and relaxed. This will make you realize which area to take care of when you feel stressed.
The Steps for Progressive Muscle Relaxation
You will want to make sure that the clothing you have put on is very comfortable and take your shoes off for better relaxation. Relax yourself, and take deep breaths. This could mean sitting or lying down, as long as you feel relaxed and comfortable. Make sure you’re in a quiet place and make yourself comfortable. You want to be able to concentrate on the feelings and differences between tight and loose muscles.
It is generally recommended to begin from the feet and move upwards. You will be focusing primarily on the group of muscles you are working on. This process should be repeated as you work right till the upper part of your body.
1) Breathe Slowly: Start by breathing slowly, feeling yourself relaxing more deeply with each breath.
2) Start At Your Feet: The start should be made from the right foot, then proceed to the left, and then to the calves, thighs and so on. Start by pointing your toes and tensing them, gradually let this tightness go before moving up and doing the same with your calves and muscles behind the shins. You want to tense your muscles as you inhale slowly, be steady for about 10 seconds, and then slowly start exhaling as those muscles are relaxed, till they feel loosen up, and release them as you exhale. This will boost the relaxing effect.
3) Work Your Way Up: This process should be repeated as you work your way up throughout the body, tensing your thighs, then relaxing, now onto your stomach, your arms, your hands, back, shoulders, neck and face.
4) Work On Your Face: When you reach your face, bite your teeth together then relax your jaw. Tense all the muscles in your face and then slowly release them.
Now that you’ve worked your way all through the body you should feel a wave of relaxation over you. This is a great way to relax if you find it difficult otherwise. Practice it as often as you need to – you’ll find that it becomes easier every time.
Why Does Progressive Muscle Relaxation Work?
When you use this technique, you’ll be teaching yourself the difference between the feelings of being tense and relaxed. Many of us hold tension in our muscles without even realizing, and practicing this skill can help you to realize when you may not be relaxed. The feelings of physical relaxation of the muscles, in direct contrast to the prior tension, have a knock on effect that leaves you feeling mentally relaxed at the same time.
So, if you suffer from stress, anxiety or difficulty sleeping, try progressive muscle relaxation as a way to relax both the body and the mind. It takes a little practice but can be extremely effective.