All About Jacobson’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique

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All About Jacobson’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique

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Stress and anxiety have a strong link with muscle tension. When one is mentally stressed he/she unconsciously tenses the body’s muscles. Muscle tension shows up as a backache, headache or stomachache. It may even concentrate in the face, neck and shoulders. This makes the stress of the mind even worse.

stress & weight gain

In the 1930s Dr. Edmund Jacobson developed a technique for managing stress and helping the body enter a state of relaxation. This systematic technique is called Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation technique. This technique helps in breaking the cycle of stressed mind and stressed muscles i.e. the fight or flight response of the body. This post aims at discussing all about Jacobson’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique.

Dr.Jacobson felt that in order to reach a state of deep relaxation, muscle tension needs to be relieved.

“An anxious mind cannot exist in a relaxed body”

~ Edmund Jacobson, MD

Today his technique PMR (Progressive muscle relaxation) is widely used to treat:

  • Phobias
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Backaches
  • Ulcers
  • Colitis
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Post traumatic stress disorder

A lot of variations of relaxation exercises have mushroomed since the release of Dr. Jacobson’s book but the original PMR procedure has a two step procedure to relax your muscles.

Step 1: You tighten and apply tension to different muscle groups intentionally throughout the body taking one muscle group at a time.

Step 2: You release and let your tension go away and focus the way the muscles relax and feel as tension melts away.

PMR guidelines

  • Do it for 20 to 30 min a day.
  • Locate a quiet place without distractions.
  • Your clothing must be loose and you should be barefoot.
  • Do this on an empty stomach.
  • Choose a comfortable position. You can either sit in a chair or lie down.
  • Close your eyes.
  • You should tense and relax each muscle group while focusing on both sensations.
  • The same time interval should be used for all muscle groups.
  • When you work on one muscle group, the remaining muscles of the body should be relaxed.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Meditation

The PMR technique:

Step 1- Tension: Breathe in and intentionally tense up the selected muscle group. Hold the muscle tension for five to ten seconds.

Step 2- Relax: Breathe out, gently let go and release the tension. Extract pleasure out of the sensation of draining out tension from your body. Remain still for 15 to 20 seconds and then move on to another muscle group. Make a comparison of relaxation and contraction.

Right through this exercise you should concentrate on how your muscles feel while contracting and relaxing. If your mind wanders, try to bring it back to the muscle group you are tensing up and relaxing.

How to tense various muscle groups?

Hands and forearms- You should clench your hand and tighten your fist.

Upper arms- curl the arm and flex the bicep

Shoulders- You should shrug your shoulders bringing them to touch your ears.

Feet- You should flex your toes upward.

Front of legs- Your toes should point in a manner that makes them parallel with your legs.

Back of legs- stretch your heels down and flex the feet upwards.

Thighs- Keeping your foot relaxed extend your legs, press the back of the knee towards the floor.

Bottom- You should clench the buttocks together.

Abdomen- You should hold the stomach muscles tight.

Lower back- Press the lower back into the floor or chair.

Upper back- If you are lying down, keep both your arms along your sides, tighten and press the arms against the body. If you are sitting, try touching both your elbows behind the back.

Chest- Inhale, hold the breath and tighten the chest muscles.

Shoulders- Inhale, hold the breath and shrug your shoulders to bring them close to your ears.

Neck- Stretch your head back as if you are touching the ceiling with your chin or bend your head forward trying to reach your chin towards your chest.

Face- Frown and scrunch your face and shut your eyes tightly.

After completion of the session

After the session remain still with closed eyes for a few seconds. Scan your body mentally for any remaining tension. If so, repeat the exercise for those particular muscle groups. After completing, take a deep breath and while exhaling say to yourself “I am calm”.

A word of caution

Before starting this relaxation exercise, it would be better if you consult your doctor if you have any pre-existing health condition.

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