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PROGRESSIVE MUSCULAR RELAXATION

The following is a slight variation on Jacobson’s original technique that divides the contraction into three intensities of 5 seconds each: 100%, 50% and 5% with a relaxation phase between each intensity of contraction. By sensing the differences in muscle contractions, the individual becomes more aware of their own muscle tension levels in the course of a day. These instructions were written to be read as you perform the technique, or to be read to you by a third party, as sometimes it is easier to follow instructions when someone else is navigating. Before you begin, get in a comfortable position, preferably on your back on a carpeted floor, unloosen any constrictive clothing, kick off your shoes, and begin to unwind. The first muscle group will be those of the face.

Face: Tense the muscles of the forehead and eyes, as if you were pulling all your facial muscles to the center of your nose. Pull as tight as you can and hold it. Feel the tension you have created with these muscles, especially the forehead and eyes. Now relax and exhale. Feel the absence of tension in these muscles. They feel loose and calm. Try to compare this feeling of relaxation with the tension just produced. Now, contract those same muscles of your face, but this time at half the intensity, just 50%. Hold it, and relax. Exhale. Feel how relaxed those muscles are. Compare this feeling to what you just felt in the last contraction. This comparison should make these muscles are even more relaxed. Now, finally, contract these same facial muscles at only 5%. Five percent is a slight contraction. It is like feeling a slight warm breeze on your forehead and cheeks. Hold it. And relax. Take a comfortably slow and deep breath and as you exhale feel how relaxed these muscles of your face are.

Jaws: Take a moment to feel the muscles of your jaws. Notice any tension, even the slightest amount. The jaw muscles can harbor a lot of undetected muscle tension. Now consciously tense the muscles of your jaws really tight, as tight as you can and hold it, even tighter, hold it. Now relax these muscles, exhale and sense the tension disappear completely. You may even feel your mouth begin to open a little. Feel the difference between how these muscles feel now, compared with what you just experienced at 100% contraction. Feel the absence of tension. Now, contract these same muscles, but at half the full intensity, a 50% contraction. Hold the tension, keep holding, and now relax again. Feel how relaxed these muscles are. Compare this feeling of relaxation with what you felt at 50% intensity. By comparing the difference in tension levels, a greater sense of relaxation will surface. Once again, contract these same muscles, but with only a 5% contraction. A 5% contraction is a very slight twinge, with no motion whatsoever – just the acknowledgement that these muscles can contract. Now hold it, keep holding, and relax. Release any remaining tension so that these muscles are completely loose and relaxed. Sense just how relaxed these muscles are. To enhance this feeling of relaxation, take a comfortably slow, deep breath and sense how relaxed your jaw muscles have become.

Neck: Concentrate on the muscles of your neck and isolate these from the surrounding head and shoulder muscles. Take a moment to feel the muscles of your neck. Notice any tension. The neck muscles can harbor a lot of undetected muscle tension. Now consciously tense the muscles of your neck really tight, as tight as you can and hold it, even tighter, hold it. Now release the tension and completely relax these muscles. Sense the tension disappear completely. Become aware of the difference between how these muscles feel now compared with what you just experienced at 100% contraction. Once again contract these same muscles, but at half the full intensity, a 50% contraction. Hold this level of tension, keep holding, and now relax again. Feel how relaxed your neck muscles are. Compare this feeling of relaxation with what you felt at 50% intensity. By comparing the difference in tension levels a greater sense of relaxation will become evident. Now finally, contract these same muscles at only 5%. A 5% contraction is a very slight twinge up and down the sides of the neck, with no motion whatsoever – just the acknowledgement that these muscles can contract. Now hold it, keep holding, and relax. Release any remaining tension so that these muscles are completely relaxed. Feel just how relaxed these muscles are. To enhance this feeling of relaxation, take a comfortably slow, deep breath and sense how relaxed your neck muscles have become.

Shoulders: Concentrate on the muscles of your shoulders and isolate these from the surrounding neck and upper arm muscles. Take a moment to sense these muscles of the deltoid region. Notice any degree of residual tension. The shoulder muscles can also harbor a lot of undetected muscle tension, resulting in stiffness. Quite literally, your shoulders carry the weight of all your thoughts: the weight of your respective world. Now, consciously tense the muscles of your shoulder really tight, as tight as you can and hold it, even tighter, hold it. Now relax these muscles and sense the tension disappear completely. Sense the difference between how these muscles feel now, compared with what you just experienced at 100% contraction. Once again, contract these same muscles, but this time only half the intensity, a 50% contraction. Hold the tension, keep holding, and now completely relax these muscles. Sense how relaxed your shoulder muscles are. Compare this feeling of relaxation with what you felt at 50% intensity. By comparing the difference in tension levels, a greater sense of relaxation will surface. Finally, contract these same muscles at only 5%. A 5% contraction is a very slight twinge, with no motion whatsoever – just the acknowledgement that these muscles can contract, just a sense of the clothing touching the shoulder muscles. Now hold it, keep holding, and relax. Release any remaining tension so that these muscles are completely loose and relaxed. Feel just how relaxed these muscles are. To enhance this feeling of relaxation take a comfortably slow, deep breath and sense how relaxed your shoulder muscles have become.

Upper Chest: Concentrate on the muscles of your upper chest. Try to isolate these from the muscles of your neck, shoulders, and upper arms. Take a moment to feel these upper chest muscles. Sense the slightest tension these muscle may hold. Now, consciously tense your upper chest muscles really tight, as tight as you can and hold it, even tighter, hold it. Now, completely relax these muscles and sense the tension disappear completely. Sense the difference between how loose these muscles feel now compared with what you just experienced at 100% contraction. Once again, contract these same muscles, but at half the full intensity, a 50% contraction. Hold the tension, keep holding, and now relax again. Feel even a greater sense of relaxation to these muscles. Compare this feeling of relaxation with what you felt at 50% intensity. By comparing the difference in tension levels, a greater sense of relaxation will become evident. Finally, contract these same muscles at only 5%. A 5% contraction is a very slight twinge, with no motion whatsoever. With a 5% contraction you merely feel the fabric of clothing over these muscles. Now hold it, keep holding, and relax. Release any remaining tension, so that these muscles hold absolutely no tension whatsoever. Feel just how relaxed these muscles have become. To enhance this feeling of relaxation, take a comfortably slow, deep breath and sense how relaxed your upper chest muscles have become.

Hands and Forearms: Concentrate on the muscles of your hands and forearms. Take a moment to feel these muscles, including your fingers, palms, wrists and forearms. Notice the slightest bit of tension. Now consciously tense the muscles of each hand and forearm by making a fist as tight as you can and hold it, like you’re going to punch something. Even tighter, hold it. Now release the tension and relax these muscles. Sense the tension disappear completely. Open the palm of each hand slowly, extend your fingers, and let them recoil just a bit. Sense the difference between how relaxed these muscles feel now compared with what you just experienced at 100% contraction. They should feel very relaxed. Now contract these same muscles at half the intensity, a 50% contraction. Hold the tension, keep holding, and now relax again. Sense how relaxed these muscles are. Compare this feeling of relaxation with what you felt at 50% intensity. By comparing the difference between tension and relaxation, a more profound sense of relaxation will surface. Now, contract these same muscles at only 5%. A 5% contraction is a very slight twinge, with no motion whatsoever – just the acknowledgement that these muscles can contract. A 5% contraction is like holding an empty yet delicate egg shell in the palm of your hand. Now hold it, keep holding, and relax. Release any remaining tension so that these muscles are completely relaxed. Feel just how relaxed these muscles have become. To enhance this feeling of relaxation take a comfortably slow, deep breath and sense how relaxed your forearm and hand muscles have become.

Abdominals: Really focus your attention on your abdominal muscles. Take a moment to sense any residual tension in these the muscles or the organs they protect. Now consciously tense your abdominal muscles really tight as if someone is about to punch you in the stomach and you want to block that punch. Contract as tight as you can and hold it, even tighter, hold it. Now relax these muscles and sense the tension disappear completely. Feel the complete absence of tension. Compare the difference between how these muscles feel now with what you just experienced at 100% contraction. Once again contract these same muscles, this time at half the full intensity, a 50% contraction. A 50% contraction is like preparing for a false stomach punch. You know they won’t make contact, but just in case you want to be ready. Hold the tension, keep holding, and now relax again. Feel how relaxed these muscles are. Compare this feeling of relaxation with what you felt at 50% intensity. When you compare the difference between tension levels and this current state of relaxation, a greater sense of relaxation will follow. Finally, contract these same muscles at only 5%. A 5% contraction is so slight you barely feel the clothing over your stomach area; just the acknowledgement that these muscles can contract. Now hold it, keep holding, and relax. Release any remaining tension so that these muscles are completely relaxed. And sense just how relaxed these muscles have become. To enhance this feeling of relaxation take a comfortably slow, deep breath and sense how relaxed your abdominal region has become.

Lower Back: Isolate the muscles of your lower back. These muscles can get quite tense and cause much pain. Now consciously tense these muscles by trying to press your lower back to the floor. Maintain this posture and hold really tight, as tight as you can and hold it. Now, relax these muscles, allow your back to curve naturally and sense the tension disappear completely. Sense the difference between how relaxed these muscles feel now and compare this with what you just experienced at 100% contraction. Once again, contract these same muscles, but at half the full intensity, a 50% contraction. Hold the tension, keep holding, and now relax again. Feel how relaxed these muscles have become. Compare this feeling of relaxation with what you felt at 50% intensity. By comparing the difference in tension levels you will feel a greater sense of relaxation. Once again, contract these same muscles, but this time at only 5%. A 5% contraction is a very slight twinge, with no motion whatsoever – just the acknowledgement that these muscles can contract. Now hold it, keep holding, and relax. Release any remaining tension so that these muscles are completely loose and relaxed. Feel just how relaxed your lower back are has become. To enhance this feeling of relaxation take a comfortably slow, deep breath and sense how relaxed your lower back muscles are.

Buttocks: Concentrate on your buttock muscles. Notice any residual tension and release it. Now, consciously tense these muscles really tight, as tight as you can and hold it, even tighter, hold it. Now, release the tension and relax these muscles and sense the tension disappear completely. Compare the difference between how these muscles feel now with what you just experienced at 100% contraction. Now contract these same muscles at half the intensity, a 50% contraction. Hold the tension, keep holding, and now relax again. Feel how relaxed these muscles are. Compare this feeling of relaxation with what you felt at 50% intensity. By comparing the difference in tension levels a greater sense of relaxation will surface. Now finally, contract these same muscles at only 5%. A 5% contraction is a very slight twinge, with no motion whatsoever – just the acknowledgement that these muscles can contract. Now hold it, keep holding, and relax. Release any remaining tension so that these muscles are completely relaxed. Feel just how relaxed these muscles are. To enhance this feeling of relaxation take a comfortably slow, deep breath and sense how relaxed these muscles have become.

Thighs: Concentrate on the muscles of your left and right thigh. Try not to involve your abdominal or buttock muscles. Take a moment to sense just the muscles of your thighs. Notice any residual tension that might be there and release it. Now, consciously contract these muscles maximally, as tight as you can and hold it, even tighter, hold it. Now relax these muscles and sense the tension disappear completely. Sense the difference between how these muscles feel now compared with what you just experienced at 100% contraction. Once again, contract these same muscles, but at half the full intensity, a 50% contraction. Hold the tension, keep holding, and now relax again. Feel how relaxed these muscles are. Compare this feeling of relaxation with what you felt at 50% intensity, by comparing the difference in tension levels a greater sense of relaxation will surface. Finally, contract these same muscles at only 5%. A 5% contraction is a very slight twinge, with no motion whatsoever – just the acknowledgement that these muscles can contract. Now hold it, keep holding, and relax. Release any remaining tension, so that these muscles are completely relaxed. And feel just how relaxed these muscles have become. To enhance this feeling of relaxation take a comfortably slow, deep breath and sense how completely relaxed your thigh muscles are.

Calves: Locate and sense the calf muscles of both legs and isolate these from all other leg muscles. Take a moment to sense your calf muscles. Notice if they have any residual tension. These can be the tightest of all leg muscles. Now consciously tense these muscles by pointing your toes away from your knees. If they should begin to cramp, then release the tension by pointing your toes toward your knee. Contract as tight as you can and hold it, tighter. Now relax these muscles and sense the tension disappear completely. Make a comparison between how relaxed these muscles now feel with the tension you just experienced at 100% contraction. Once gain, contract these same muscles, but at half the full intensity, a 50% contraction. A 50% contraction is like tiptoeing on a cold wood floor. Hold the tension, keep holding, and now relax again. Feel how relaxed these muscles are. Compare this feeling of relaxation with what you felt at 50% intensity. When you compare the difference between relaxation and tension levels, a greater sense of relaxation will surface. Now, contract these same muscles at only 5%. A 5% contraction is a very slight twinge, with no motion whatsoever – just the acknowledgement that these muscles can contract. Now hold it, keep holding, and relax. Release any remaining tension so that these muscles are completely relaxed. Feel just how relaxed your calf muscles are. To enhance this feeling of relaxation take a comfortably slow, deep breath and sense how relaxed your calves have become.

Feet: Focus your attention on the muscles of your right and left feet. Typically the muscles of the feel are not tense, but when used as postural muscles when standing they can produce a lot of tension. In addition, the confinement of shoes can cause them to become less than relaxed. Now consciously contract the muscles of your feet by scrunching your toes really tight, as tight as you can. Hold it, even tighter, hold it. Now relax these muscles and sense the tension disappear completely. You may even feel your feet become warm as they relax. Feel the difference between how these muscles feel now compared with what you just experienced at 100% contraction. Once again contract these same muscles at half the intensity, a 50% contraction. Hold the tension, keep holding, and now relax again. Feel how relaxed these muscles are. Compare this feeling of relaxation with the tension you felt at 50% intensity. By comparing the difference in tension levels, a greater sense of relaxation will surface. Now, contract these same muscles at only 5%. A 5% contraction is a very slight twinge, with no motion whatsoever – just the acknowledgement that these muscles can contract. Now hold it, keep holding, and relax. Release any remaining tension so that these muscles are completely relaxed. Sense just how completely relaxed these muscles are. To enhance this feeling of relaxation take a comfortably slow, deep breath and sense how relaxed your whole body is now. Your face and jaw muscles, your neck, shoulders, upper chest, arms and hands, your stomach and lower back, and your legs and feet. Your whole body feels completely relaxed and calm.

Now lie still, and enjoy the complete feeling of relaxation.

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