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A Guide to Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

January 17, 2021  |  by Callan Kelly

When we’re managing stress, particularly for a longer period of time, there can be a range of different effects on our bodies, with one particular effect being that we can carry this stress as tension in our muscles.  

So, what can we do to help with this?

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a technique that not only helps to relieve this tension in your body, but also helps you to recognise what that tension feels like so that you can recognise the signs.

What are the benefits? 

  • With regular practice, this technique may help you to better manage the effects of stress. 
  • Various studies have shown it can have therapeutic benefits for conditions such as high blood pressure, migraines and particularly for sleep issues.  

So how do you give PMR a go? 

PMR is easy to do at home and you don’t need any special equipment. All you need is focus and a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. 

The main thing with this technique is to breathe in and tense each muscle group for 5 seconds. Then, as you exhale, let your muscles fully relax for 10 to 20 seconds before you move on to the next muscle group. 

  1. Start by lying or sitting down. Relax your entire body. Take five deep, slow breaths. 
  2. Curl your toes upward. Hold, then let go. Curl your toes downward. Hold, then let go.
  3. Tense your calf muscles, then relax. 
  4. Squeeze your knees toward each other. Hold, then relax. 
  5. Tense your thigh muscles. Hold, then relax. 
  6. Tense your buttocks. Pause, then relax. 
  7. Clench your fists. Pause, then let go. 
  8. Tense your arms. Hold, then let go. 
  9. Contract your abdominal muscles. Pause, then relax. 
  10. Take a deep breath in and tighten your chest. Hold, then exhale and relax. 
  11. Raise your shoulders to your ears. Squeeze, then let go. 
  12. Purse your lips together. Hold, then release. 
  13. Open your mouth wide. Hold, then let go. 
  14. Close your eyes tightly. Pause, then release. 
  15. Lift your eyebrows. Hold, then release. 

Some tips 

  • If you’re new to PMR, it’s a good idea to give yourself a little more time as you get used to it. Allow up to 15 or 20 minutes uninterrupted as a beginner. 
  • Turn your phone off or pop it onto silent if possible, in order to avoid distractions.  
  • Move through the muscle groups in an order that works for you, you can start wherever you want.

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