Progressive relaxation is a relaxation technique that allows you to tense and relax your muscles so that you can feel the difference between your body at rest, and your body in a state of tension. A full progressive relaxation technique allows you to tense and release your muscles for your entire body. We’ll use an abbreviated version to cover the areas of the body where many students show they hold their tension. It’s important to check in with your self after each technique to asses which one is most helpful to you.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (abbreviated)
Arms and Fists
Get in a comfortable place and relax. Now clench your right fist, tighter and tighter, studying the tension as you do so. Keep it clenched and notice the tension in your fist, hand, and forearm. Now relax. Feel the looseness in your right hand, and notice the contrast with the tension. Repeat this procedure with your right fist again, always noticing as you relax that this is the opposite of tension – relax and feel the difference. Repeat the entire procedure with your left fist, then both fists at once.
Press your head back as far as it can comfortably go and observe the tension in your neck. Roll it to the right and feel the changing locus of stress, roll it to the left. Straighten your head and bring it forward, press your chin against your chest. Feel the tension in your throat, the back of your neck. Relax, allowing your head to return to a comfortable position. Let the relaxation deepen. Now shrug your shoulders. Keep the tension as you hunch your head down between your shoulders. Hold it, hold it) Relax your shoulders. Drop them back and feel the relaxation spreading through your neck, throat and shoulders, pure relaxation, deeper and deeper.
Give your entire body a chance to relax. Feel the comfort and the heaviness. Now breathe in and fill your lungs completely. Hold your breath. Notice the tension. (Hold it, hold it) Now exhale, let your chest become loose, let the air hiss out. Continue relaxing, letting your breath come freely and gently. Repeat this several times, noticing the tension draining from your body as you exhale. Next, tighten your stomach and hold. Note the tension, and then relax. Now place your hand on your stomach. Breathe deeply into your stomach, pushing your hand up. Hold, and relax. Feel the contrast of relaxation as the air rushes out.
Find a comfortable position. Let your shoulders drop, your arms relax, let your buttocks sink into the chair, let your legs relax, and feel your feet planted on the floor. Now imagine a place in your mind that you like. It could be a beach, your room, a
forest……take a moment to find that place. When you have found it, nod your head. If you haven’t found a place don’t worry….just keep your eyes closed and breathe deeply. As you are in your favorite place, notice how the air feels, the temperature, notice what you see, notice any smells or sensations in your body as you stay in this place…feel your body relaxing….just enjoy where you are….take a moment to notice anything else you’d like about this place……. Know you can come back here at anytime……take what you want with you and come back into the room.
Breathing and Centering
As soon as you note a sign of anxiety-if you catch your breath, feel your heart leap, or feel a flush of heat- begin your three steps:
1)Take two to three deep, even breaths.
2) Think calming words to yourself as you continue to breathe deeply:
3)Breathe in…think “relax”; as you breathe out think relax
Breathe in…think relax; as you breathe out think relax
Be aware of how your body feels at the PAUSE. This is the “centering” piece. Feeling centered means you are feeling calm and focused.
Now breathe 8 more times, slowly and deeply.
Adapted from The Relaxation and Stress Reduction workbook, fourth edition, Davis et. al 1997