Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): technique to control and monitor the rate of muscular tension to decrease physical stress in the body.
PMR is one of my favorite relaxation exercises! It’s great too, because you can do it in pretty much any environment and at any time of the day. Personally, I like to do it right before bed to help me unwind and relax for the night. I also use this activity to do in group at least once a week and it’s always a favorite!
The idea is mostly focused on isometrics, or isolating certain muscle groups one by one. I always start with the muscles in my right arm, then move to the left arm, neck and shoulders, to the legs, and finally feet. One “round” of exercises takes me about 15 minutes to complete. I do the first round at half-strength (so squeezing/tightening muscles half as hard as I know I can) and do one last round afterwards at full strength (squeezing/contracting muscles as hard as I can – without hurting myself.) Try it for yourself! Again, the goal is to feel more relaxed and decrease muscle tension. It feels like you have just gotten a massage, in a way.
The cycle I follow is:
- Make a fist with your right hand (hold for 20 seconds for each movement)
- Put your right arm straight out, fist with right hand, wrist flexed up toward you -knuckles facing you.
- Right arm flexed to isolate bicep muscle.
- (REPEAT SAME MOVEMENTS WITH LEFT ARM)
- Look straight up at the ceiling/sky, isolating neck muscles.
- Look down, chin-to-chest.
- Touch right ear to right shoulder.
- Touch left ear to left shoulder.
- Lift both shoulders as high as you can.
- Sit forward in your chair a little, touching elbows behind your back.
- Right leg straight in front of you, flexing right quadriceps.
- Right leg slightly bent, flexing right calf muscle.
- Right leg slightly bent, curling right toes under.
- (REPEAT SAME MOVEMENTS WITH LEFT LEG)
How do you feel after doing this exercise? Hopefully more relaxed! Remember to repeat the cycle a second time at ‘full strength’ to feel even less tension afterwards.
For more information on Progressive Muscle Relaxation, and for a better visual, check out: progressive muscle relaxation printable handout and guide.
TIP: Play around with different kinds of music while performing this exercise. Before bed, you could listen to a relaxing playlist. Be aware of your mood, what you enjoy, and how this will benefit you the most. You could listen to an environmental sound, such as beach waves, rain drops, lightning, thunder, birds chirping, etc. Or you could listen to upbeat pop-music in the morning to get you ready for the day. Find what works best for YOU! Enjoy.