Everyone can use a little relaxation these days. And while meditation is a wonderful way to relax and recharge, it’s difficult for some people to enjoy the benefits. Enter progressive muscle relaxation, or PMR for short. “PMR is a relaxation method that allows you to focus on something, which is great for people who get frustrated at the challenge of quieting their mind,” says Claudia Zurlini, senior coordinator, Public & Patient Education at HSS and a certified meditation instructor.
PMR can help in the short term by thoroughly relaxing each and every muscle. But the benefits continue beyond the end of the session. The more you practice PMR, the more you learn to recognize the difference between your body’s tense and relaxed states, and the better you become at taming the tension before it takes hold.
With PMR, you squeeze and relax each muscle group one by one. “We all carry tension in our muscles on a daily basis without even noticing,” says Zurlini. By exaggerating the strain in each muscle, we’re more able to observe it, which gives us the opportunity to relax it, she adds.
Some of the benefits of PMR include:
Anyone can benefit from PMR. You don’t need any equipment or gear, and you’ll see results almost immediately. Plus, you can do it anywhere or anytime you want to relax, ground yourself and be more present, whether that’s first thing in the morning or just before bed.
For the first few times, you might want to start with a guided recording, says Zurlini, so you can follow the steps without distracting yourself with the instructions.
Find a comfortable, private space to sit or lie down. Make sure you’re wearing loose-fitting clothing. If you live with other humans, let them know you’ll need 10 to 15 minutes of time by yourself. (You can also tell the dog, but he may not listen.)
Close your eyes and take a few deep, slow breaths, breathing in and out through your nose. Rest your hand on your belly so you can feel the breath rise and fall as you settle in and arrive to the practice. Throughout the session, breathe in as you tense and out as you relax.
When you’re finished with your entire body, take a few additional deep breaths as you check in with how you feel. Can you notice the difference between now and when you started? If you did this before bed you might have even fallen asleep. If so, congratulations … you’ve done it right!
Claudia Zurlini is senior coordinator, Public & Patient Education at HSS and a certified meditation instructor.