Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Before doing this exercise, consider any injuries you might have. You may want to avoid stressing sore or injured muscle groups. Persons with chronic headaches may want to avoid the tension portion of this exercise and only do the relaxation portion.

  • Make yourself as comfortable as possible in your favorite chair, on the floor, in bed or wherever you feel comfortable. Loosen tight clothing, uncross legs and arms, and close your eyes.
  • Take a deep breath, hold it, and then let it out very slowly. Continue to breathe deeply and slowly throughout this procedure.
  • Extend your arms along your sides and make a tight fist. Do this for 10 seconds while thinking about how tense your hands are.
  • Unclench your fists and let your arms fall limply to your lap. Relax for 15 seconds, breathing deeply and noticing how comfortable, warm, and pleasant your hands feel.
  • Now open and flex your hands as much as possible (the opposite of making a fist). Hold this for 10 seconds and think about how tense your hands are.
  • Let your arms fall back into your lap again and relax for 15 seconds, breathing deeply. Notice how comfortable, warm, and pleasant your hands feel.
  • Repeat this procedure, tensing and relaxing individual sets of muscles, then the opposing set of muscles. After the hands, you may want to try biceps - triceps, mouth open - mouth closed, eyes open – eyes closed, shoulders forward – shoulders back, and so on. Cover the entire body, then enjoy a period of quiet relaxation, breathing deeply and slowly.
  • Emerge from progressive relaxation gradually, starting by wiggling your fingers and toes, then smile and enjoy the moment.