Updated: Sep 25, 2021
Learning to relax is a great skill to have. If, however, you feel tense, it is difficult to know where to start. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is an easy-to-follow system that allows you to be in a more relaxed state.
One of the basic concepts around this to examine, or compare, the difference between “tense” and “not tense”, and so you start by clenching or squeezing muscle to its tightest degree before allowing it to “release”.
A bit like Newton’s Law, of “every action, has an equal and opposite action”, we force a tense muscle to become even more tense, before mentally telling it to “let go”.
It is best to be systematic in your approach to this, starting at your feet. I prefer to open my toes wide as opposed to scrunching my feet, as this often get give you cramp, which is not relaxing in the slightest! Then roll feet towards each other and away, until the feet are in a relaxed position. You then move progressively up the body, with either pressing your legs into the floor or tensing thighs, arching your back, and then squeezing your stomach or distending it forwards, pushing your head back into the floor etc.
I don’t particularly enjoy scrunching my face, so suggest a swallow to release neck and throat, and then the indication to allow the skin around the eyes and the lips to relax.
There is some interesting research (look for “Progressive Muscle Relaxation) and the effect of music – which seems to enhance and deepen the relaxation. I think some of this is to do with occupying some of the “senses” which will take over the “tension” we carry, and so it is good to distract or occupy these with other sounds. I like the “listening” technique where you try to tune into small noises that are far away, or the “looking into the far distance” technique.
Which ever one works well for you, try to set aside a short amount of time each week to learn to let go. Research indicates that PMR can help depression, anxiety, fatigue, lowered (normalised) blood pressure and the obvious decrease in muscle tension – at any age. PMR reduces both short- and long-term stress, it is used to help coronary heart patients and those undergoing other medical interventions that can cause huge stress and anxiety, it helps those with asthma, the elderly, and those recovering from Covid.
You don’t have anything to lose, and much mental quiet and joy to gain x