Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This technique was developed by Edmund Jacobson, MD in the 1920s. It involves tensing and relaxing the various muscle groups in your body. You can start anywhere, i.e., with the toes on your feet or your head. You can do the technique with each muscle group or with combinations of muscle groups. Check with your physician before practicing this technique if you have had back problems, muscle spasms, or any serious injuries.

Basic Technique

Find a quiet location

Loosen your shoes or remove them and wear loose, relaxed clothing.

Sit in a chair. Note that if you lay down you may fall asleep.

Do not mix with eating, smoking, or drinking, especially intoxicants

Consider using a deep breathing exercise to calm yourself down

Tense a muscle group for five (5) to ten (10) seconds, then relax for ten (10) to fifteen (seconds), then move on to the next muscle group.

Inhale when you tense and exhale when you relax.

Use the Detailed Muscle Groups first for a week to 10 days, once or twice a day, to become acquainted with each muscle group. Notice which of your muscle groups hold tension. Then you may want to use larger muscle groups. I describe the muscle groups from basic to more detail below. Some use this exercise daily and others only when they want to relax. You may start anywhere; many people start with an extremity like the hands or a foot.

Basic Muscle Groups Moderate Muscle Groups

Each Leg Toes and Foot

Stomach & Chest Legs, upper and lower

Each Arm Hand and wrist

Shoulders and Neck Arms, upper and lower

Face Stomach


Shoulders and Neck



Another option is to say a special word as you relax a muscle group like “Relax.”

Body Scan

After you have used the technique so that you feel comfortable with it try closing your eyes and moving through the various muscle groups and notice any tension. You can then focus on those areas. You may use this at the end of a session or during the middle of the day.

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