The Progressive Relaxation Technique
Progressive relaxation, the technique used to induce muscular relaxation, was developed by Jacobson (1929). It is particularly effective for persons who have trouble falling asleep (Berkovec & Fowles, 1973).
With this technique, you contract and then relax your muscle groups, progressing from one muscle group to another until the major muscle groups have exercised. The reason for first contracting each muscle group is to teach you to appreciate what muscle tension feels like. Without conscious recognition of the two extreme sensations of muscle tension and muscle relaxation, you will not be able to voluntarily induce the appropriate degree of muscle relaxation. Like all psychological techniques, progressive relaxation should be practiced regularly some months before a major competition so that you acquire the appropriate proficiency with the technique by the time you need to use it.
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Progressive relaxation is best practiced in a quiet, comforExercises room that is free from distractions. The best place is usually a heated and carpeted room with the lights dimmed. You follow the following five-step sequence:
1. Lie on your back on the floor with your hands resting on or next to your abdomen, with your legs extended and feet rotated outward. Ensure that you are comforExercises, and then relax as much as you can.
2. Next, clench your right fist and feel the tension in your right fist, hand, and forearm.
3. Then relax and feel the fingers of your right hand become “loose.” As you do so, contrast the feelings of contraction and relaxation.
4. Repeat this procedure first with the right hand again, then with the left hand twice, and then with both hands at the same time.
5. Now repeat the same sequence for all the major muscle groups in your body, particularly the muscles of the face, neck, shoulders, upper back, chest, stomach, lower back, hips, thighs, and calves. Exercise all muscle groups, taking care not to rush the sequence. At all times, carefully note the extent of the difference in the sensations of relaxation and contraction.
Practice the complete sequence of progressive relaxation exercises 3 times a day for 15 minutes, with the last session scheduled immediately before going to sleep. The beneficial effects of the procedure should become apparent within a few weeks.