Progressive muscle relaxation involves breaking the body up into groups of large muscles. Each group is deliberately tensed and then relaxed. The reason the muscle is first tensed and then relaxed is because a tensed muscle is more able to relax after being tensed than when the muscle is at rest. The aim of this technique is to:
1. Purposefully tense the muscles so you recognise the feeling of tension
2. Relax the muscles, letting the tension flow out of the body
Progressive muscle relaxation takes a bit of practise, but through repetitive practise, you can quickly learn to recognise and distinguish between the feeling of a tense muscle and a completely relaxed one. Using this technique, you will be able to induce physical muscle relaxation when you recognise the first signs of tension. As physical and mental tension are related, using progressive muscle relaxation can also bring about a state of mental calmness.
When you practise progressive muscle relaxation, try and choose a time and place when you are unlikely to be interrupted. Give yourself and tension rating out of 100% before and after practising it to see if there has been any reduction in tension as a result. When you tense your muscles, make sure you tense them to about 70% tension. Practise the technique a few times a week. Here is a script that you can use as a guide when you first start. After much practise you won’t need the guide – you will be able to follow the steps without it.