Always check with your doctor first before trying any new physical activity.
Would you like to learn about a technique that can help you manage your stress before your stress manages you, can be done anywhere and doesn’t cost a dime? Yes? Then you’re in the right place! Today’s post is all about progressive muscle relaxation otherwise known as PMR.
One of the reasons why PMR is very popular is that it can be effective without a ton of exertion on the part of the practitioner. Progressive muscle relaxation consists of subtle movements to relieve the tension found in the body and achieve relaxation.
Sometimes as we’re feeling stressed, our bodies tense up adding to the overall stress and strain that we feel. And if that tension isn’t relieved, it can cause things such as body aches and headaches which can only get worse the longer you hold on to that tension.
By tightening each muscle group and then releasing, you start to feel more relaxed and less stressed. Progressive muscle relaxation is a way of being mindful because it’s all about exaggerating each conscious movement that you make and releasing that movement, which helps you to be aware of the difference in what your muscles feel like when you’re tense and when you’re relaxed.
You can start out by doing PMR once or twice a week and increase you sessions from there as needed or desired. It’s all about making time.
How To Do Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
Under the most ideal circumstances, you’d be in a place that was relatively quiet, dimly lit, where you could sit comfortably or lie down. That being said, PMR can be done anywhere – on the train, while watching tv, while walking down the street (although if you’re walking down the street, you wouldn’t be able to complete a full session).
Close your eyes and start breathing deeply through your nose. Hold your breath for just a few seconds and then release it through your lips. When you inhale, your stomach should expand and when you exhale, your stomach should contract. Do this several times and imagine that your body is becoming heavy and warm. Release any tension that you become aware of.
Continue to breathe slowly and clench both of your fists, tightening your biceps and holding the tension for a few seconds. Now release the tension and let it flow away. Your focus should be on the changing sensations in your muscles. As you allow the tension to flow from your arms, hands, and fingers keep your hands open to shake off the remnants.
You should continue this pattern through each of the major muscle groups in the body. First you tighten the muscle, then you release the muscle slowly. I like to start from my feet and work my way up to my face, but you can practice in whatever order feels most comfortable to you. Make sure to pause for at least 30 seconds between muscle groups.
Some cautions, if any of you have any muscle spasms, back pain or other types of injuries, you should skip that particular muscle group. At any time if you feel pain, you should stop.
Feet. Begin to tense your feet by curling your toes and arching your foot. Hold onto the tension in your foot for a few seconds while you notice what the tension feels like. Slowly release by uncurling your toes and notice your feelings of relaxation. You should continue to breathe deeply while you practice this exercise.
Legs. Next, begin to focus on your lower legs by tensing the muscles in your calves. Hold them tightly and pay attention to the feeling of tension (prepare for possible cramping). Release your calves and then tense the muscles of your upper leg and pelvis. You can do this by tightly squeezing your thighs together. Don’t strain yourself, just feel the tenseness.
Abdomen. Pull your stomach in (suck it in!) and then push it out, tensing it as though you were expecting a blow. It will be hard but remember to breathe.
Back. Tense the muscles in your back by bringing your shoulders together behind you. Hold them tightly. Tense them as hard as you can without straining.
Chest. Puff your chest out and take a deep breath (now hold it for five seconds) before slowly releasing it.
Shoulders. Shrug your shoulders, pushing them back for a few seconds, relax and then pull them forward.
Neck. Pull your chin toward your chest slowly and then turn your head to the right before turning it to the left. You should keep your shoulders relaxed, but straight, while you practice this technique.
Face. Start by raising your brows and furrowing your forehead. Then squeeze your eyes closed as tightly as possible, and then clench your teeth.
As you work through each group of muscles, you may feel a type of warmth enveloping your body (like a hug) as you relax. After you complete the exercise, take a moment and allow your muscles to rest. Just enjoy the feeling of relaxation before you start moving around and trying to jump back into your regular routine.
Now the amount of time that it will take to complete a PMR session will vary from person to person it really doesn’t take much time. If you really want to do it properly though, you should give yourself enough time to be thorough. You may choose to do your progressive muscle relaxation session in total silence, but relaxing music is an effective way to block out any background noise. And the right kind of music can help you keep your focus.
So, there you have it! A simple progressive muscle relaxation routine that you can do to release the tension from your body. I really enjoy PMR because its an easy way to engage in a little bit of self-care when you’re too tired or stressed to go all out.
Lets’ talk, which way do you like to do your PMR, from your head to your toes, vice versa or any other way? Let me know in the comments section.
Cassandra Martin-Himmons is a trainer, wellness coach and consultant who believes in empowering her clients and providing the tools that they need to make positive changes in their lives to manage their stress and increase their self-care. In her spare time, she enjoys papercrafting, volunteering and travel. Connect with her on Instagram or Linked/In