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How to Relax From Head to Toe with Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Updated on September 16, 2012

Do you feel stressed out?

Are your muscles always tight, sore or achy? Do you get tension headaches? Do you have anxiety? Do people tell you that you are too uptight? Perhaps you need some time to yourself, to relax.

Progressive muscle relaxation is one way to relax yourself from head to toe. The technique is simple to learn. You focus on a muscle group for a few seconds, tense it as hard as you can (but not to the point of pain) and release it quickly to feel the difference.

It sounds weird at first, tense a muscle up in order to relax it. Doesn't tensing a muscle make it, well, more tense? But the idea is you tighten up, feel, feel, feel the tension and then let it go. The tension evaporates. The result is a calmer, more relaxed body and a quieter mind. Once you try it you will want to do it again and again.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique

Spend a few minutes getting yourself comfortable. I like to do this lying down flat on my back on the floor. You can also do it on a chair as long as you are fully supported. You will be a ragdoll when you are finished this so you want to make sure you are in a place where you can just melt away.

Now take a few deep breaths.

  • Tighten your toes, squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, then release. Let go. Feel how relaxed your toes feel.

Tighten each muscle group for 7-10 seconds and relax it for around 30 seconds.

  • Flex your toes and squeeze your calf muscles... and release.
  • Clench your thigh muscles... and release.
  • Squeeze your butt... and release.

Feel how relaxed your lower half feels and make sure no tension has crept back in.

  • Arch your lower back... release. Be gentle here, especially if you have pain.
  • Suck in your stomach... release.
  • Tighten your chest by taking a deep breath and holding it... release.
  • Shrug your shoulders up to your ears... release.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together...release.

We are getting into areas that tend to carry a lot of tension. You may repeat the hold and release once if the muscle still feels tight.

  • Clench your hands into fists...¬†release.
  • Flex your biceps... release.
  • Touch your chin to your chest... release.

Feel how relaxed you are from the neck down.

  • ¬†Shut your eyes tightly... release.
  • Raise your eyebrows and wrinkle your forehead... release.
  • Grin widely... release.
  • Open your mouth as wide as you can... release. Allow your lips to remain parted and your jaw to hang loose.

Now, just breathe. Tune into how relaxed you feel all over. Scan your body for any little bit of remaining tension and let it go.

Breathe and relax for as long as you like.

Give it a try!


This feels good and is really, really good for you. It will reduce muscle tension and general anxiety. It's great if you can take a break during the day and practice this technique. It will help to clear your mind. It will give your body a chance to recover from the effects of stress. You will come out of it better able to deal with problems, issues and annoyances.

It is also a great thing to practice in bed right as you are trying to fall asleep. You are lying there anyway! If worries tend to creep in at nighttime. you can push then aside and focus on how relaxed your body is feeling. A wonderful way to fall asleep, your sleep will be deeper and sounder.

Progressive muscle relaxation can reveal to you tensions you didn't know you had. I never realized how much tension I carried in my jaw, forehead or around my eyes until I specifically focused on these tiny muscle groups. I was always talking about my aching neck or the pain in my lower back. No wonder I had headaches! It's all connected, pain in one area can spread to other areas. So can relaxation.

So try it! You can try a video or audio cassette to learn the technique. Once you learn it, it is pretty easy to remember. You can work the muscles in the order I've written, or go head to toe, or any way you want. If you don't feel comfortable tightening the muscles, you can just focus on relaxing each one. This is called passive muscle relaxation, and it works too.

So take a little time for yourself and relax!


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    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      You are welcome, DustinsMom. Thanks for commenting.

    • DustinsMom profile image

      DustinsMom 7 years ago from USA

      Great recommendation! Thanks for sharing.

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      It works, doesn't it? Thanks for reading, Sandyspider.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      This is just what I need.

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      I did this in high school drama too! Thank you for your comment.

    • JannyC profile image

      JannyC 7 years ago

      Oh my gosh yes I know this relaxation we did this in high school drama cause our class was so hyper that he made us all lay down on the stage and do this relaxation. LOL We were more mellow after though.

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      I'm so glad you found this helpful stars439.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Great information. We all work hard around our place. Will read this more than once. God Bless

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for reading and commenting, allweneedislove.

    • allweneedislove profile image

      allweneedislove 7 years ago from USA

      Hey daisyjae. Nice hub. Lots of good stuff.

      I feel better all ready :)

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      I'm glad it helped, Nell.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hi, daisyjae. Oh my God, that was amazing! ha ha I feel like a rag doll now!! and I needed it at that particular point. I have been trying to sell something on e-bay for two hours, and I have never got involved with such a awkward and annoying site! I was just about to throw the PC out of the window! my whole body was so tense I thought it would break, ha ha, and then I listened to the video and now I feel great. thank you. I am going to bookmark this, and when I am stressed I am coming back! thanks again nell

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      Building muscle is very important, prasetio30, you are right.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      nice information. I like something about health. And this hub is very informative. We have to consider about that. Building muscle is also the best. Thanks.

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      It sure does! Thanks for your comment habee.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I've done this, and it definitely helps!

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for your comments, ethel and seo it! I'm glad you enjoyed this.

    • SEO IT! profile image

      Karla Whitmore 7 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      It does work! I run through the PMR routine and follow with breathing exercises. There are times that I'm so tense I have to go through some muscles more than once -- it is great for making you aware of tension. Nice hub. I hope more people out there try it!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Trying this as I read your Hub and yes you are right it does feel good. Will have a go properly later this evening