Progressive Relaxation Technique

Progressive relaxation technique is a technique of systematically tensing and releasing of your muscles, in order to create whole body relaxation. By consciously letting go of tension from our bodies and creating an environment which is peaceful and quiet, our bodies go from an activated mode into a deactivated one.


The technique was developed by Dr. Edmund Jacobson in the 1930's and described in his book Progressive Relaxation. This technique is a muscle relaxation technique and can relax the body within minutes. However, at the beginning it takes practice to learn to release the muscles. Once your body knows how to tense and then relax muscles, you can relieve tension and stress on the spot.

Progressive relaxation is based on a fact that complete physical relaxation is the absence of tension. If you are completely relaxed it is impossible to be tense and anxious. Progressive relaxation can help you achieve a state of profound physical relaxation by soothing the chronic muscle tension that keeps the sympathetic nervous system in overdrive.

There are four stages in progressive relaxation technique:

  1. Awareness of tension - by concentrating on an area of your body, you learn to recognize tension.
  2. Tensing the muscles
  3. Letting go of the tensing
  4. Awareness of relaxation - you concentrate on the particular area of your body, and you learn to recognize the feeling of relaxation.

The best position for practicing progressive relaxation technique is lying down. Some people use this technique just before falling asleep, but you can use it at anytime of the day.

16 muscle groups are a focus of training "tense and release":

  1. dominant hand and forearm
  2. dominant upper arm
  3. non dominant hand and forearm
  4. non dominant upper arm
  5. forehead
  6. upper cheeks and nose
  7. lower face
  8. neck
  9. chest, shoulders, and upper back
  10. abdomen
  11. dominant upper leg
  12. dominant calf
  13. dominant foot
  14. non dominant upper leg
  15. non dominant calf
  16. non dominant foot

Some practitioners teach shortened versions where muscle groups are combined, for example, into four groups:

  • arms and hands
  • face and neck
  • chest, shoulders, back, abdomen
  • legs and feet

Body awareness

We often become so accustomed to physical tension in our bodies that we literally do not know that it is there. Progressive relaxation teaches you to recognize the difference between tension and relaxation in your body and with this awareness you get a choice on how you want to be. Do you want to be tense or relaxed? I think the answer is pretty simple.

Experts say that the more you practice progressive relaxation technique, the quicker and easier it will be to experience physiological relaxation with all of its benefits. You will also find that the more you practice, the deeper you will be able to relax.

Other Relaxation Techniques:

Diaphragmatic Breathing
Simple Workplace Relaxation
Instant Relaxation Exercises




Return from Progressive Relaxation Technique to Stress Relief Tools




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