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09 February 2009 @ 04:08 pm
progressive muscle relaxation (pmr)  
What is it and how does it work? The process of progressive muscle relaxation is simply that of isolating one muscle group, creating tension for 8-10 seconds, and then letting the muscle relax and the tension go. For example: take your right hand, tighten it into a fist, and notice what happens. You can feel the muscle tension increase in your hand and up your forearm. The longer you hold it, the tenser it becomes. You become aware that it does not feel good. In fact, it begins to hurt. This is an example of exaggerated muscle tension. If such tension exists around the neck you get a neck ache, and if it is in the forehead you get a headache. Continue to hold the tension and now, all at once, relax and let go. Allow your hand to flop down into your lap and notice the difference. The muscles now begin to relax, and the muscle tension just flows away, melts, dissolves, and disappears.

This process of relaxation is guaranteed to happen because it is based on a principle of muscle physiology. Whenever you create tension in a muscle and then release the tension the muscle has to relax. The muscle does not have a choice. It must happen. The interesting aspect of this process is that the muscle will not only quickly relax back to its pre-tensed state, but if it is allowed to rest, will become even more relaxed that it was. As this procedure of creating tension and then releasing it is applied to every major muscle group of the body, all of these muscles will become more relaxed than when you started.

The key to triggering the relaxation response in this manner is to take charge of the voluntary muscles by tensing them and forcing them into a state of relaxation. Once the muscles relax then the other components of the relaxation response will naturally follow. Relaxed muscles require less oxygen so the breathing pattern slows and deepens. The heart does not need to be beating so fast to carry oxygen out to tense muscles. Heart rate and blood pressure decline. The normal blood flow returns to the belly and digestion resumes. The belly is calmed. Hands and feet warm up. Such a series of bodily adaptations all start and fall naturally into place because the voluntary muscles are being directed into a state of relaxation. Soon changes in mood follow, and you become more calm and refreshed.

How do you do this?
Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for about 15 minutes. Dim the lights. Locate a comfortable chair in which you can sit straight up with your feet on the floor. Sit comfortably in the chair. Pay close attention to how you feel as you begin. Notice any stiffness or tightness. Are there any aches or pains? Do you feel tense, frustrated, or keyed up? Pay attention to how you feel now because you are going to become more relaxed, and you need a point of comparison.

First, we will review what to do and then we will experience the relaxation exercise. For your convenience the exercise has been recorded into audio format for free. Click HERE to listen. You will need Windows Media Player to hear it.