Simple Exercises to Help You Relax

As soon as you become aware of what tension feels like, you have started step one in the art of progressive relaxation.

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The following exercises are best done while lying down, so you can practice them before dropping off to sleep.  Step by step, here’s what’s involved.
  1. Begin with the arm and forearm to locate and feel tension.
  2. Close your hand, making a fist.
  3. Tightly clench both fists.  Notice the pull or tension on your wrists, around your elbows, and even up in the shoulders.  This is extreme muscular tension.
  4. Open your fists.  Immediately release contraction from the muscles of the hands, forearms, upper arms, and shoulders.  You will feel the tension leave.
  5. Close your eyes and think “relax” – breathe slowly and deeply.
  6. Now do it all over again, then, do it once more.  In other words, perform the above exercises three times.
  7. Next, bend toes and feet downward, then push or stretch downward with the heels.  Notice the pull or tension in your ankles, feet, hips, and thighs, but most particularly in the calves of your legs.  This is muscular tension.
  8. Now let go, and the muscular tension disappears.
  9. Do the foot exercise three times.
  10. The final relaxing exercise is for the muscles of the neck, throat and face.  Close your eyes more tightly than usual.  Shut them as tight as you can.  At the same time press your lips together, and bite hard with your jaws’ strength.  This contracts the muscles of your eyes, forehead, mouth, jaws and neck.  You can easily feel the tension about the head—and even hear it ringing in your ears.
  11. Now let go of the tension from your jaws and face.
  12. Perform the face and jaw exercises three times.  You may need to practice this last exercise before you can master it.  Among all body muscles, those in the face are among the most difficult to relax.  Check on yourself when you are unable to sleep, and you will often find your eyebrows knit together, your forehead wrinkled up, and muscles around the eyes and jaws tense.

Copyright © 10/29/2009 Athena Goodlight (Triond)

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