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Relax the Body, Calm the Mind

Progressive Relaxation


Stress, even mental or emotional causes physical tension.  This exercise will help you to recognize a tensed muscle and a completely relaxed muscle.  At the first signs of tension, anxiety or feeling ”wired” you can use this technique to relax physically.  When you relax physically you become mentally calm also.


Before using this technique consult your physician if you have a history of muscle spasms, low back pain or serious injury.  This technique may cause an exacerbation.


 The Set-up

  • Sit in a comfortable chair.  You may lie down but you will probably fall asleep before you are finished.
  • Pick a quiet place where you are alone with no distractions.  Don’t even use background music.
  • Wear loose comfortable clothing and take off your shoes.
  • Avoid eating, drinking or smoking.


The procedure


Begin by isolating a specific muscle group, focus you mind on it, inhale then squeeze the muscle as hard as you can for a count of ten.  If you do this properly you will feel the tension, your muscles may begin to shake.  You could even feel pain but do not go to an extreme that can cause injury.  Keep the other muscles in the area as relaxed as possible.  The more you do this the easier it will be to tense one set of muscle without tensing others.


Now very quickly let the tension go.  Exhale. Let all the tightness flow away.  Imagine the tightness, tension or pain flowing away through your fingertips or with your blood flow.  Feel the muscle become relaxed, loose and limp.  The idea is to focus on the change that happens as the tension is released.


The Muscle Groups


Work through these muscle groups in order left column first the right column.


  • Face
  • Neck and shoulders
  • Right hand
  • Right forearm and hand
  • Entire right arm
  • Left hand
  • Left forearm and hand
  • Entire left arm
  • Chest
  • Abdomen
  • Entire right leg
  • Right lower leg and foot
  • Right foot
  • Entire lower leg
  • Left lower leg and foot
  • Left foot




When you finish take a couple of deep cleansing breaths then get up slowly.

Deep Relaxed Breathing



  This breathing technique can be used in any position but in the beginning it is easier to perform correctly if you lie down.



  • Lie down flat with the knees bent.
  • Place one hand on your abdomen and one on your chest.
  • Take a deep breath, inhaling slowly through your nose.
  • Feel your abdomen expand and your chest move only slightly.



Breath steadily like this for a few minutes until it is relaxing and steady.  After you have achieved relaxed, steady breathing continue.



·         Part your lips slightly and exhale through your mouth.  This should make a little sound as you exhale.

·         Continue inhaling through your nose and exhaling through the mouth.

·         Make sure your breaths are long, slow and deep.

·         Notice the air moving through your trachea and in and out of your lungs.

·         Notice your body becoming more and more relaxed.

·         Finish by breathing normally for a few minutes as you remain in this relaxed state.


When you begin deep relaxed breathing do it for 5 minutes.  As you get used to the exercise increase the time until you get up to 20 minutes.


As you learn to breathe using your abdomen you can do this exercise in any position at any time.  No one even has to know you are doing a breathing exercise.  It may be particularly useful in stressful situations, helping you be more relaxed.  You will probably be thinking clearer during the stress just because of the good oxygen that is making it to the brain.  I recommend occasionally doing deep relaxed breathing lying down even after the technique is mastered because of the complete and total relaxed state that is possible in this position.