Racing mind? Tense muscles? Can’t seem to get into relax-mode? If you’re struggling to make winding down work for you, this is a technique that just might help. It’s called progressive muscle relaxation. And it is one little secret worth knowing about.
What is progressive muscle relaxation?
Progressive muscle relaxation is an anxiety-reducing method, developed in the 1930s by Dr. Edmund Jacobson, a psychiatrist and physician. The technique helps relax the muscles alongside the mind. And by doing so, you can engage in deeper, more effective stress-relief or even actual therapy.
Ever notice how when you’re feeling wound-up there’s tension in your neck and shoulders? Perhaps you even have a headache? Or maybe you’re feeling these symptoms but aren’t aware of any emotional connection?
These are typical effects of people suffering from stress, depression, or anxiety. And often, this physical effect stands in the way of solving the emotional issue.
Think of it as a barrier. And to get to the real root of the problem – the psychological – you first have to tackle the physical.
What are the benefits of progressive muscle relaxation?
As the theory goes, dealing with the genuine physical symptoms of stress and anxiety can help you better deal with the psychological ones. The benefits of progressive muscle relaxation include:
All of which can help your overall well-being – both physical and emotional.
How to do progressive muscle relaxation?
Wondering “when practicing progressive muscle relaxation, which part of the body should you start with?” Or even in which sequence you should relax your body to get the maximum benefit?
Don’t! We’ll keep it easy for you in our simple script below. This will walk you through the method and help you practice to achieve results.
You can even use this progressive muscle relaxation technique for your kids to help them relax and de-stress after a challenging day or as an everyday go-to-bed activity.
Tip! Progressive muscle relaxation is a great technique for kids to learn to recognize their emotions and the effect they have on the body.
Simple progressive muscle relaxation script
Find a place where you won’t be disturbed and lie down. You can choose any comfortable space – your bed, a yoga mat, or even a soft blanket. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and release through your mouth. Push the air out and away from your body as if you’re letting go of all your worries.
Right now, we’re about to talk you through the steps of how to relax your body and focus your mind. Let’s begin.
Start with your neck. Can you feel the tension in the tightness of your muscles? This is one of the most common points where stress gathers.
Now, close your eyes and imagine you are a turtle, poking its head out of its shell, and gazing at the world around – the sand, the sea, the noises it makes as it crashes against the shore. Take another deep breath in and tilt your head all the way back. Feel the pull in those neck muscles.
Once you’ve stretched as far as you can go, hold that pose for 3 seconds and release. Think again of that turtle retreating into its shell, as you move your muscles back to their natural position. Breathe out as you do and feel the tension leave your body.
Repeat again. Breathing in and moving your head backwards. Think of the noises of the sea, the light breeze that flows and carries away all your worries. Breathe out and return to center.
You may not notice you’re holding tension in your face. But it’s there. The frown lines, those first signs of aging, or even a headache perhaps? Now, we will release that build-up tension and make your face feel lighter.
This time think of a feather. Picture its follicles, white and fluffy, how soft they are. Now, imagine it has landed on your nose. It tickles. You need to get it off. Take a deep breath in and scrunch up your face. Perhaps you’ll even wiggle your mouth a little. All the while trying to move that feather.
Now, breath out. Relax your facial muscles and imagine the feather floats up into the air. But it has landed on your nose a second time. Again, take an inward breath. Deep and right down into your lungs. Scrunch up your face. Tight. Hold for three seconds. And let go, breathing out fully. This time the feather has flown far, far away and your worries feel a little less.
Now it’s time to move onto the shoulders. They feel tight, unmovable, perhaps as if they carry the weight of the world upon them. Let go of that tension and stand taller. Imagine you are a house cat: a magnificent creature and the master of your own domain.
Breathe in and stretch your shoulders upward toward your ears and hold them there. You should feel the tension in the muscles as you do. Wait for three seconds and relax. As you breathe out, let your shoulders drop back into their usual resting position.
Repeat. Breathing in, you draw your shoulders up, like the house cat stretching in the morning sun. Breathing out, you take the back down again. Relaxed and less tense.
With your shoulders at ease, we move on to the hands. You may not notice it, but the more stressed you are, the move you contract the muscles in your arms and hands. That travels through the body into the neck and shoulders.
Now is the time to take back control. Imagine you are standing on the water's edge. Before you the icy summer sea is hitting the shore. So powerful, so beautiful. You want to step in but are afraid. Take a deep breath in and think of the sea air filling your lungs. Tense the muscles of your arms and hands. Create a first with your fingers and squeeze tightly. Bracing yourself.
Now breathe out as you imagine dipping your toe in the water. Release the tension from your hands and arms. Let it go. Repeat. Breathe in deeply and clench those fists. Hold as you think of taking another step into the water. Breathe out and release – free your worries into the sea air.
The home of your heart, the center of your body. When stress gathers here, it can make you feel weighed down – time to lighten the load and feel free. Take a deep breath in.
This time think of yourself as a gorilla, the true king of the jungle. Let the air from you breathe fill that muscular chest. Arch your shoulders back and push your chest forward. Hold the pose of three seconds. You are strong. Then release. Breathe out and let your shoulders slide back to their natural position with your chest sinking back down.
Now, take another breath in. Let your chest rise and push those shoulders back. You have become this magnificent creature – a king. Breathe out and imagine those concerns you were holding onto seeping away from your body.
Now, we move further down the body to our stomach. Let’s make sure our worries don’t take root here. Think of the humble caterpillar as he crawls across the grass. Not yet a butterfly, he is just beginning his journey.
Breathe in deeply as you imagine yourself like the caterpillar. Think of how he arches his back to move. Contract the muscles of your stomach as you do. Hold them tightly.
Now, as the caterpillar pushes forward, let go. Breathe out and relax those muscles. You are free! Repeat as you imagine the caterpillar crawling along again. Breathe in through your nose as you tense those muscles and out through your mouth as you relax them.
We use this area all the time – to sit, to lie, to stand. Like our core, it supports our bodies and keeps us stronger. Don’t let it weaken with muscle stress. Take a massive breath in. Imagine your body as a bridge as you tense the muscles of your butt. Raise it up to create a bridge with your legs and bottom.
Hold for three seconds. See your strength as you imagine the water flowing beneath you. Relax and slide back into the lying position. Breathe out.
Now, repeat. Breathe in as you create your bridge. Raising your body up. Breathe out as you sink back down. This time imagine yourself pushing the earth away from you. Send all your worries and concerns into the ground below. They are no longer yours. Let them flow back into the earth.
You always knew you were the king. Now it’s time to truly become one. Imagine yourself as the king of the plains – the majestic lion. Basking in the hot sun, you will stretch out your legs, relaxing them.
First, breathe in. Let that deep breath fill your lungs with the warm, pleasant air of the plains. Stretch your legs out. Feel as the muscles tense as you do. You never noticed before how much tension was here. Hold that pose for three seconds.
Release. Breathe out, push the air away from your body, and relax. We are nearly there. Breathe in again and contract those leg muscles. Hold and release, you are strong, you are ready.
This is the final part of our progressive muscle relaxation journey. You are so close now to relaxation. So close to having control of your body once again. This time we are back on the beach – the sand is wet and squishy. You are standing at the water’s edge.
Breathing in, contract the muscles of your feet. Pull them upward towards your legs. Feel the tension. Breathing out, let go. Relax and imagine the sand dancing around your toes.
Again, breathe in. This time push your toes downward. Imagine them sinking deeper into the sand. Feel your body as one with the earth around it. Breathe out and relax.
All that stress and tension has left your body. Continue to lie in your space for as long as you feel comfortable. Breathe in and out. In and out.
Don’t get up right away; instead take a few moments to appreciate how comfortable you feel. You have let your worries go, and you are whole. One last time for this session, take a deep breath in and out.