Practicing relaxation techniques on a regular basis can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as calm your mind. You can improve your overall health by using the following progressive muscle relaxation exercise once or twice a day for 10 to 20 minutes. Let’s get started.
As you sit comfortably in a chair, close your eyes and take a deep breath to a count of four. Hold that to a count of six, and slowly begin to release that to a count of eight. Imagine stress beginning to drain out of you.
Take in another deep breath. Find a slow, intentional breathing pattern that works for you as I begin to take you through all the muscle groups in your body.
Keeping your eyes closed and breathing slowly and intentionally, lift your right arm off your lap or desk, straighten it, and make a fist. Tense your right arm from the knuckles, wrist, upper arm, shoulder, even your chest, and hold that tension in your right arm. Hold it and then relax your right arm. Comparing your right arm to your left, you will feel your right arm relaxing.
Repeat this with your left arm. Lift your left arm, straighten it, make a fist, and create as much tension as you can, from your knuckles, wrist, forearm, upper arm, shoulder and chest. Now, relax your left arm. Feel a sense of relaxation in both arms.
Now we are going to move to the top of your head. Scrunch your face. Scrunch your forehead, your eyelids, your cheeks, your tongue, your jaw, and your chin, even your neck. Tense, and release, and relax.
Now, very gently—and if you have any neck injury, do this just slightly—move your right ear slowly so that it begins to rest on your right shoulder, and you begin to feel a tug on the left side of your neck. Slowly begin to move your left ear to your left shoulder, feeling a tug on the right side.
Dip your chin to your chest, stretching the back part of your neck, and do the same by moving the back of your head to your spine, so you are stretching the front part of your neck. Find a comfortable place to rest your head squarely on your shoulders.
Tense your shoulders again. Imagine giant ropes underneath each arm. The ropes are pulling you up and you are going to resist them. Tense your shoulders, upper arm, your back and your chest. Hold that tension, and release. Continue to breathe deeply and slowly and follow my voice.
Tighten your abdomen. Hold the tension, and release.
Moving to your legs…lift your right leg off the ground. If you are able to do this, straighten your right leg and point your toes toward your forehead. Hold the tension from your toes all the way through to your hip. You'll feel it in your thighs, your calves, your ankle, the arch of your foot. Hold that tension and relax. Feel a sense of relaxation in the right leg.
Now, slowly lift your left leg off the ground, straighten it, point your toes toward your forehead and create tension from your toes, the arch of your foot, your calf, thigh, up to your hip, and hold the tension on your left leg. Hold it and relax. Relax your legs. Your feet should be planted firmly on the ground, with legs uncrossed. Your arms should be relaxed and on your lap or desktop, and your intentional breathing is slowed down.
Imagine a place that is beautiful, perhaps a place you’ve visited or a place you would like to visit. Take this beautiful place in. Visualize it, see the textures, the colors, hear the sounds, perhaps breathe in the salt from an ocean or take in the fragrance of the flora and fauna.
Find a comfortable place to imagine yourself sitting down taking it in. Hear the sounds. See and feel a great sense of calm and relaxation, and remind yourself that all is well. You’re in a calm place; nothing needs to interfere with this sense of tranquility. Feel a sense of warmth on your head, shoulders, face, back … until the warmth cocoons you and gives you a greater sense of well-being.
You're eliminating the stress from your life at this moment. Take in this place and know that you can return to it at any time to reduce the sense of stress.
Take one more deep breath and say to yourself, all is well. Hold that breath and as you release, let go of any last concern, worry or stress that you have, and open your eyes.