Progressive Muscle Relaxation

December 15, 2020

The theme for the week = my favorite mindfulness practices. 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation


This is my favorite mindfulness practice to lead patients through.  Everyone seems to like it.  It takes several minutes but it allows people who don’t have experience with meditation to dip their toes in and get a feel for something that is not just sitting there saying “ohmmmmm”.  What I like about this is that it is a physical act.  So people feel like they’re “doing something”.  It is a little more tangible than some other mindfulness practices.  


The most important tip for any mindfulness practice is that if a distracting thought comes into your mind just notice it and then release it.  Common ones for me are “what should we have for dinner?” Or “oh, I forgot to pick up the library books!”  Stuff like that.  Just notice them and then let them go on their way.  


So how do you do Progressive Muscle Relaxation?  You basically just start from the top down (or if you’re wanting to do this before you fall asleep to get relaxed start from the toes and go up).  You can either tense the muscles and then relax them OR, what I prefer, which is just bring attention to the different muscle groups and then relax them.  This also works better for people with chronic pain.  


Start by closing your eyes (if you want) & taking a few simple breaths to ground yourself.  Make sure you’re comfortable.  


Then take a breath in, and as you do tense the first muscle group (or just bring attention to it).  Hold it and then breathe out & relax the muscles.


If you’re going from the top down start tensing your facial muscles and then relax.  Then stay relaxed for 5-10 seconds and then move on to the next muscle group, the neck & traps rising your shoulders up to your ears as you breathe in and then relax as you breathe out.  Then relax for another 5-10 seconds and then keep using that pattern as you move down the body into the arms, hands, fingers.  Then into the chest, abdomen, back, your bottom, upper legs, lower legs, feet & toes.  


When you’ve finished you take 1-2 minutes to bring your focus back to the present and open your eyes.  And that is it!


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