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How To Do Muscle Relaxation Exercises


Updated April 25, 2012

Muscle relaxation exercises are simple techniques for calming your body and dealing with stress. In our modern society, most of us walk around with our muscles geared for battle too much of the time, wasting precious energy and creating unnecessary fatigue. Excessive muscle tension can also lead to a variety of health problems. Learning to systematically relax the muscles in your body will keep you better equipped to deal with your day to day challenges.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 10 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Take a deep inhale, make a tight fist with your right hand and hold it for a count of three. On an exhale, think the word “relax” and release all the tension in that right hand. Take a moment or two to focus on the difference in the sensations of a tense muscle versus that of a relaxed muscle.

  2. Using the same technique, one by one, tense and relax the muscles in your face. Add tension on the inhale, then think the word “relax” as you exhale and let the muscle slacken.
    • Forehead: Frown like you are angry or puzzled. Exhale and smooth it out.
    • Eyes: Screw up your eyes like a baby crying. Then exhale and release the tension.
    • Jaw and cheeks: Clench your teeth and jaw as if in anger. Exhale and relax. Feel a sense of warmth and relaxation throughout your entire face.

  3. Tense and relax the muscles in your torso.
    • Shoulders: Point them up to the ceiling on the inhale. Exhale, let them relax and hang loose.
    • Chest: Tighten the chest muscles on a deep inhale, and then let the tension deflate on the exhale.
    • Abdomen: Tighten your belly as if someone is going to punch you, then let your belly go slack. Feel a spread of warmth throughout your entire torso.

  4. Tense and relax your arms. Make a fist with both hands, tightening your biceps, triceps and forearms. Let the tension go, leaving arms that are hanging loose and heavy at your side.

  5. Legs are last. Point your toes to the ceiling, tighten your thighs and calves at the same time, before letting all of the tension go. Feel the last bits of tension draining from your whole body, out through your legs and into the ground.

  6. Enjoy the experience. If any particular body part still feels tense, go back to it, tighten it and then let it loose. It may take a few weeks of practice for you to achieve a complete sense of relaxation.

  7. Practice the exercises twice a day and sit quietly for about 10 minutes. Do not practice in bed: You want to teach yourself to relax, not teach yourself to fall asleep. It is a great idea to practice right before bed. A relaxed body will sleep better.


  1. Although there are a variety of ways to progressively relax your muscles, I like to start at the top of the head and then work my way down. This allows the tension to “drain” from the body.

  2. After two weeks, you may no longer need to tense the muscles first. Just focus on each body part, actively relaxing the muscles.

  3. Once you are proficient in the exercises, you can start to use them whenever you feel tense. Monitor your tension level throughout the day. If you feel yourself tightening, take a few deep breaths, think the word “relax,” and encourage your body to return to a state of relaxation.

  4. Some people find it helpful to make an audio recording of the instructions for progressive muscle relaxation. If you do, make sure you keep repeating the key words: relax, warm, heavy, loose.

What You Need

  • Comfortable chair.
Related Video
2 Minute Relaxation Technique

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