Last week we discussed the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing. I encouraged you to incorporate at least five minutes of deep breathing into your daily routine and see how it makes you feel. Maybe it has worked well for you, maybe it’s too early to tell, or maybe it’s not a practice that really resonates with you. There are many different exercises that can help facilitate meditation. This week, I’d like to discuss another activity called Progressive Muscle Relaxation, or PMR.

PMR is commonly incorporated into treatments for stress, anxiety, or insomnia, to name a few. It can also be used to prepare for meditation. PMR focuses on methodically tensing and relaxing various muscle groups throughout the body. Here’s how it works:

Set aside about 15 minutes for this exercise. Find a comfortable position in a chair or on a flat surface. Either will work. For each muscle group, tense the muscles for about 10 seconds while breathing in. Breathe out, and abruptly relax the group. Wait for about 15 seconds before moving on to the next muscle group.

You may wish to move from toes to head, or vice versa, it really doesn’t matter. Maybe you want to tense and relax more muscle groups by including your chest and back, or maybe you’d like to do fewer. Don’t be afraid to try different orders or muscle groups to find what feels the most natural and comfortable for you! Here’s a fairly basic template to use as a starting guideline:

  1. Forehead
  2. Jaw
  3. Neck/shoulders
  4. Arms/hands (one side, then the other)
  5. Hips/buttocks
  6. Thighs (one side, then the other)
  7. Calves (0ne side, then the other)
  8. Feet (one side, then the other)

It may be helpful to listen to an audio recording to guide you through the exercise. Again, when you search for a suitable recording, choose one that has the best voice, pace, and relaxing background sounds for you. As an example, below is a link to a guided session of PMR provided by McMaster University (Track 2):

This week, try to incorporate some PMR into your routine to see if it’s a technique you want to add to your toolbox.

This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.