Iris Mini: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

"Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are." - Ude Ibiam Ufiem

Progressive muscle relaxation is a way to help your body relax through tension, relaxation, and breathing. It involves tensing and relaxing, and then mindfully noticing all the muscles in your body. You can start from either your head or toes and work through the body in a linear progression.  

Start by choosing to recline, lie flat, or sit in a comfortable chair. Next, close your eyes and focus your attention on your body. Move slowly though your body starting at your head and continuing downward to your legs. With each body section tense your muscle, hold for 5 seconds, then release. Repeat this with each section. You may choose to listen to prerecorded audio, a script read to you by a loved one, or, after reading this script below, adapt it to your own words as you tense and release your muscles in a progression.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercise

  • Become aware of your breathing. Notice how your belly rises and falls with each breath.

  • Take a long slow deep breath in through your nose and all the way down into your stomach. Hold the breath for a few seconds. Exhale through your mouth. Repeat this several times. Notice your body and any change that has occurred.

  • Prepare to tense and relax your muscles by imagining a tension that is firm while also gradual as you breathe in.

  • Bring your awareness to your feet and toes. Breathe in deeply through your nose, and as you do, gradually curl your toes down and tense the muscles in the soles of your feet. Hold your breath for just a few seconds and then release the muscles in your feet as you breathe out. Feel the tension in your feet wash away as you exhale. Repeat this three times with your feet. Notice how different your feet feel when tensed and when relaxed.

  • Take a deep breath in. Tense the muscles in your thighs. Hold for a moment and then release everything. You may feel a warm tingling sensation. Enjoy this feeling. Repeat the tension and relaxation of your thighs three times.

  • Take a deep breath and gradually tighten the muscles in your buttocks. Hold the tension for a few seconds and then release and breathe freely. Repeat this three times.

  • Take another breath and gradually tighten all the muscles in the lower half of your body from your feet to your buttocks. Hold the tension, release, and breathe. Enjoy the sensation of release as you become even more deeply relaxed.

  • Now bring your awareness to your stomach. Draw in a deep breath and then tighten these muscles. You might want to imagine you are trying to touch your belly button to your spine. Now release your breath and let your muscles relax. Notice the sensation of relief that comes from letting go. Repeat this three times while deepening the relaxation each time.

  • Bring your awareness to the muscles in your back. As you slowly breathe in you may feel like arching your back as you tighten. Release your breath and let your muscles relax. Repeat.

  • As you slowly draw in a deep breath, pull your shoulders up towards your ears and squeeze these muscles firmly. Now breathe out and allow your muscles to go loose and limp. Repeat and remember to enjoy the feeling.

  • Now it’s time to let go of all the tension in your arms and hands. As you breathe in, raise your wrists towards your shoulders, and tighten the muscles in your upper arms. Hold that breath and that contraction for just a moment. Then gently lower your arms and breathe all the way out. Feel how relaxing it is to release that tightness and to breathe away the tension.

  • As you complete your relaxation, tense all your muscles as you breathe in and relax them as you breathe out. Notice how your body feels after this exercise.

  • Complete the exercise by slowly opening your eyes and reorienting yourself back to your environment.

You may want to remember throughout the day what it feels like to be relaxed and return to this exercise when you need a renewed sense of relaxation.