Progressive muscle relaxation is a meditation technique used to reduce muscle tension. As we hunch over a computer or text on our smart phones we accumulate muscle tension over the course of the day. Often we are not aware of the individual tight muscles, but instead may feel physically fatigued at the end of the day despite a lack of physical exertion.
When are body muscles are tense we may feel pain such as a sore neck or back. However, scalp and facial muscle tension may manifest as headache, anxiety or irritability. This level of tension at the end of the day may interfere with sleep or prevent you from getting the most out of your family time at home.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a simple process of systematically tensing muscle groups then relaxing them. For example, you could start with your hands by clenching them for a few seconds, then releasing them. You would move to the next muscle group, perhaps your forearms and do the same. A possible sequence could be – hands, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, neck, jaw/cheeks, eyes, scalp, chest, abdomen, buttocks, upper thighs, calves and toes.
This technique of progressive muscle relaxation can be done nearly anywhere, however, for the best effect, it is best if you are sitting in a quiet place where you can relax. You can also find progressive muscle relaxation recordings to help you through the process, similar to having a relaxation coach.
Progressive muscle relaxation has been studied as a behavioral therapy to treat anxiety and depression. A group of researchers studied progressive muscle relaxation in women with babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. They found that women who underwent progressive muscle relaxation followed by guided visualization produced twice as much breast milk as those who had not participated in either process.
Want to unwind? Give it a try with the sample below (approx. 13 minutes).
Progressive Muscle Relaxation