Progressive muscle relaxation

3. January 2020

Instructions for beginners – let go and relax!

Meditate relax

The Progressive Muscle Relaxation according to E. Jacobson should help people to “let go” on a physical as well as mental level. The relaxation method consists of consciously tensing and relaxing various muscles. It makes use of the principles of the human escape-fighting mechanism. What exactly is meant by this and how you perform the Jacobson method is explained in the following sections.

Progressive muscle relaxation – how it works

If an organism perceives a danger, it can react to this stimulus either with escape or with fight. Regardless of which option the organism (unconsciously) chooses, energy in the form of muscle power is required – in order to be able to react appropriately to the stress, all muscles in the body become tense.

As soon as the danger is over, the muscles usually relax automatically. If, on the other hand, the organism does not receive the signal to relax, the tension remains. This applies to dangerous situations, but also to stress of all kinds, such as stress in the office, relationship stress and various other situations in which the body is tense – often unnoticed. In the long run, however, these tensions from such situations can accumulate and cause permanent tension. Chronic back pain, headaches, neck pain and other psychosomatic complaints can be the result.

And this is exactly where Progressive Muscle Relaxation comes in. By actively and consciously tensing and relaxing various muscles, a healthy balance between these muscular states is achieved. The result: You can “let go” and feel completely well balanced again.

The procedure of progressive muscle relaxation

  • Perform the exercises in a quiet environment.
  • Take 20 to 30 minutes for progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Sit or lie comfortably.
  • Tight clothing, jewellery and other disturbing items should be removed.
  • Turn off your smartphone so as not to be disturbed.

Progressive muscle relaxation – How to perform the exercises

There are different variations or sequences for progressive muscle relaxation. In general, you first consciously feel the body part to be tensed, then you tense it. Hold the tension for at least five seconds and then relax slowly. Depending on your needs, you can do one or more passes per body part before moving on to the next muscle group. Progressive muscle relaxation also offers the possibility of addressing many individual muscles or concentrating only on the main muscle groups.

In the following sections you will receive step-by-step instructions for the so-called long form exercise.

Attention: Each bullet point is a single tension exercise, which is completed by relaxing the corresponding muscles.

Progressive muscle relaxation – exercises for arms and hands

  • Clench the fingers of your dominant hand into a fist.
  • While lying down: bend your arm to the same side so that your forearm is facing the sky. Press the upper arm against your chest.
  • Continue with the hand and arm on the other side of your body.

Progressive muscle relaxation: Feet, legs and buttocks

  • Tense your left or right foot by clenching your toes together.
  • Bend the instep of the same side of your body towards the floor. This is how you tense the lower leg.
  • By lifting your leg straight up, you tense your thigh.
  • Repeat these exercises for the other side of the body.
  • Then tense the gluteal muscles and relax after holding the tension for five seconds.

Progressive muscle relaxation: face and head

  • Pull your eyebrows up, frown and tuck your crown.
  • Pinch your eyes together, wrinkle your nose and make faces.
  • Press your lips together and open your mouth as wide as possible, as if your lower jaw wants to touch your neck.
  • Pull your shoulders up and push your neck back.

Progressive muscle relaxation – exercises for upper body, back and abdomen

  • Move your shoulders slightly back.
  • Breathe deeply and hold your breath to tense your chest muscles.
  • Tense the abdomen.
  • To tense the lower back, make a hollow back.

Important: If you have done the exercises as described above, the Progressive Muscle Relaxation ends by once again tensing and then relaxing all parts of the body at the same time. Then go through all the trained muscle groups again in your mind. This way the relaxation is maintained longer.

Progressive muscle relaxation – take a step back!

The last part of Progressive Muscle Relaxation is always the withdrawal: Breathe in and out deeply several times and stretch yourself. You should stretch your limbs as if you had just woken up from sleep. Be aware that the exercise is over in order to wake up and be fit for the day.

And now it’s your turn! Go through our instructions step by step. We wish you lots of fun and even more relaxation!