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A Practical Step-by-Step Guide on Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Yiwen Lu, MS, RD
June 15, 2024
June 15, 2024

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) works in two easy steps. First, you learn to relax specific muscle groups by deliberately tensing and then releasing them. Then, you pay attention to how your body feels while tensed compared to while it's relaxed. This awareness will help you understand the difference between when your body is undergoing stress and when your body feels more relaxed and at ease overall.

Step-by-Step Guidance

If you've never tried Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) before, it's a good idea to check with your doctor first, especially if you have muscle conditions or injuries. Once you get the green light, here's what to do:

  1. Find a quiet spot: Choose a peaceful and comfortable place where you can relax without any distractions.  Making sure your body is well-supported, i.e. propping up pillows behind your neck if lying down, or adding a cushion behind your lower back, sit or lie down in a comfy position.
  2. Start with deep breaths: Take a few slow, deep breaths. Inhale through your nose, letting your belly expand, and exhale gently through your mouth. Focus on your breath to prepare  your mind for relaxation.
  3. Work your way up:, Starting from your toes, begin by focusing on one muscle group at a time, slowly breathing in and out as you progress to your head. Next, spend about 5-10 seconds tensing each muscle group, followed by 15-20 seconds of relaxing each muscle group. Repeat this process for your whole body, adjusting the duration to what feels right for you.
  4. Tense and relax: Curl your toes downward to tense the muscles in your toes for a few seconds, then let go. Notice how your toes feel when they're relaxed. Move up to your feet and calves, then gradually work your way through your thighs, glutes, abdomen, chest, arms, hands, fingers, neck, and face. Each time, tense the muscles for a few seconds, then release and feel the relaxation.
  5. Full-body relaxation: Once you've gone through each muscle group, take a moment to focus on your entire body. Feel the overall sense of relaxation and calmness that has spread throughout. Enjoy the peaceful feeling and take it with you into your day.


Progressive Muscle Relaxation is an easy technique to relax not only the body but also the mind. Practice PMR during stressful moments or before bed to get a better night's sleep!

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