Chapter 6
  1. Success Over Stress

158. How to Relax, Muscle by Muscle

Contradictory as it may sound, you can learn a lot about relaxation from tension. By alternately tensing and relaxing your muscles, group by group, you can induce a wonderful sense of head-to-toe relaxation.

Edmund Jacobson, M.D. invented a technique called Progressive Deep Muscle Relaxation. This exercise requires only a few minutes to master and is an efficient way to release accumulated tension. (It’s often called Progressive Relaxation, for short.)

Here’s how to perform Progressive Relaxation:

  1. 1.Sit in a chair and close your eyes. Rest your forearms on the sides of the chair, palms downward.

  2. 2.Take a few slow, deep breaths.

  3. 3.Concentrate on whatever muscle tension you may be feeling, but do nothing about it.

  4. 4.Command yourself to “tense” and tighten a muscle group for 5 seconds, then tell yourself to “relax” and let the tension dissolve for 30 seconds. Follow this sequence for each body part listed below.

  5. -Bend both arms at the elbows and wrists. Make a fist with each hand. Relax.

  6. -Press your back against the chair. Relax.

  7. -Tighten your abdomen. Relax.

  8. -Lift and extend your lower legs. Relax.

  9. -Tighten your jaw. Relax.

  10. -Squint your eyes. Relax.

  11. -Tuck your chin against your chest. Relax.

  12. 5.Continue to breathe slowly and deeply.

  13. 6.Concentrate on the overall sensation of relaxation and allow your body to go limp like a rag doll. Let your head and shoulders drop forward.

  14. 7.Imagine you feel energizing warmth flowing through your body.

  15. 8.Slowly open your eyes and note how refreshed you feel.

Note: Don’t hold your breath during the tensing phase, and don’t tighten any region of the body that’s weak or injured.