How to Relax: Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
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Published by TOP4 Team
The experience of relaxation is the opposite of the stress response - and probably the best antidote. If you’re experiencing symptoms of stress, you’re probably aware how tense and tight you feel much of the time. You may have literally forgotten how to relax! But this
is an art that can be learned, and it’s the most useful and effective technique to beat stress.
There are many ways to relax. One of the most popular is progressive muscle relaxation. As the name suggests, its aim is to progressively relax every muscle group. It’s used in prenatal classes, by fitness instructors, hypnotherapist, and even people who simply want to decrease their stress levels. This technique makes you aware of what the relaxed state feels like, as opposed to the physical tension to which many are accustomed.
Cassette recordings are available to talk you through progressive muscle relaxation - ask your doctor or local pharmacist for some recommendations. Once you’ve heard the instructions a few times, you’ll be able to do the exercises by yourself, either in silence or to gentle music. Practise progressive muscle relaxation daily and it will soon no longer seem like a discipline but a pleasure. Details vary according to teacher and practitioner, but will go roughly like this:
Step 1: Sit or lie down in a quiet room, dimly lit, perhaps by candlelight. Some people prefer to sit because they fall asleep to easily lying down. Choose a chair with a comfortable back support and place your feet flat on the floor.
Step 2: Focus on your breathing, which should flow naturally. Imagine it as a sort of circle as you draw air in through your nose, relaxing your diaphragm, and out through your mouth and nose.
Step 3: As you breathe, begin to feel your body letting go of tension. Repeat the word “relax”, or any other word that symbolises tranquility, to yourself a few times.
Step 4: Be more aware of areas of tension in your body. Now curl up the toes on your right foot, tensing the muscles as hard as you can feel the tension, hold for a few seconds and then release. Feel the difference between tension and relaxation. Repeat on the left side.
Step 5: Flex your ankles, feel the tension, hold and release. Again, feel the difference between tension and relaxation.
Step 6: Using the same technique, work your way up your body, becoming progressively more relaxed. Relax your stomach, chest, back, hands, arms and shoulders.
Step 7: When you reach your head, tense and relax all the muscles of your face: eyes, forehead, jaw and tongue.
Step 8: Imagine the relaxation flowing through your body, from your eyelids, down through your back and pelvis, right down to your toes.
Step 9: Now that you’re physically loose, try to picture a scene where you’re secure and happy. This could be on a beautiful beach, in a lush forest or in some other place where you feel at peace. Stay there for a few minutes.
Step 10: Don’t snap out of your relaxed state too quickly. Gradually start moving your limbs before slowly opening your eyes, stretching and coming back to the real world.
Relax whenever you’re stressed and take a break from your daily routine once in a while. Visit the top Australian fitness centres today.