Progressive muscle relaxation techniques are simple to understand, but they can take some practice to master. Please don’t give up on them before you see the benefits. These effective progressive muscle relaxation techniques will help you fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more refreshed, plus they can reduce stress and anxiety symptoms in the long run. Just try one new technique every few days until you’ve used all of them, then pick your favorite(s) and stick with them. So, let’s start.
Types of Progressives Muscle Relaxation Techniques
There are four types of progressive muscle relaxation techniques: active, passive, supported, and self-guided. Each type has a slightly different style and is designed for a different level of experience. In most cases, if you have never practiced any progressive muscle relaxation technique before, you will probably want to begin with a guided version. Once you become familiar with each technique and your body’s responses, you will likely be able to transition into a self-guided version for most situations.
Diaphragmatic Breathing Technique
Breathing deeply is always good for lowering stress levels. But it’s particularly effective when done using a technique called diaphragmatic breathing. To try it, place one hand on your upper chest and one on your stomach (just below your rib cage). Slowly breathe in through your nose, allowing your stomach to rise as you fill up with air. Then slowly exhale out of your mouth—while making sure that neither hand moves at all—until you feel empty of breath.
Progressive Exhalation Technique
When you focus on exhalation rather than inhalation, your breathing will naturally become slower and more relaxed. You can even try practicing progressive exhalation in your chair at work—it might help you stay calm in tense situations. Here’s how it works: slowly exhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, slowly exhale for a count of eight, hold for a count of eight, etc.
Abdominal Breathing Technique
Lying on your back, place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. Place both feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes, relax your jaw and take three deep abdominal breaths through your nose. Then exhale through pursed lips. After each exhalation, say aloud, let go, or another phrase that will help you focus solely on relaxing different parts of your body.
Hand Waving Technique
While many relaxation techniques are available, finding one that works for you may require some trial and error. You can find out what works best by practicing different methods regularly. One technique commonly used is hand waving, where your arm is moved in an up-and-down motion as if you’re trying to wave off a fly. Close your eyes and repeat one word repeatedly in your head with each movement of your arm. If it helps, say that word aloud.
The Last One: Head Shaking Technique
To relax your head, hold it steady with your hands, and shake it side-to-side for 10 seconds. Next, tilt your head back as far as you can, close your eyes, and keep them closed for 30 seconds. Now nod up and down for 15 seconds. Repeat these three steps twice. As you do so, remember to breathe deeply.