Progressive muscle relaxation technique – steps and exercises


We will use Total or Partial Progressive Muscle Relaxation to learn to control the muscles of our body that with their inadequate use cause vasoconstriction and consequently a deficit in the oxygen supply as well as a great tension in our whole body.

This technique, as well as relaxation through breathing , will not only be used in the clinical setting but also in our daily life, which will allow us to achieve self-control in the face of different stressful situations as well as a greater control over ourselves.

Objective of progressive muscle relaxation

  • Learn relaxation skills that can be applied quickly and in virtually any situation. That is, training consists of learning to RELAX, so that in situations where we notice that we are becoming excessively tense, nervous or restless, we are able to reduce and control the situation, as well as our own physical and mental state.
  • Learning to relax is similar to learning any other type of skills, such as: writing, reading, swimming, driving, riding a bicycle, etc … At first everything is slow, complicated and deliberate with few results and many errors but with PRACTICE, we will be able to relax quickly and in the most diverse situations. Without a REGULAR PRACTICE, THE PROCEDURE WILL NOT WORK. On the other hand, the more we practice better results and greater mastery, we will achieve.

The goal

It consists in being able to relax in 30-60 sec., And in using this ability to control both the confrontations to various situations such as anxiety and the excessive somatic reactions that accompany it, thus influencing the three response systems.

How are we going to get it?

  • Learning to recognize and relax the muscular tension of our entire body.
  • At the beginning practicing daily at home and once we learn the technique practicing it anywhere and how many times better.
  • Applying relaxation to events in our daily lives and in different situations.
  • Turning it into a habit that is part of our daily repertoire.

Initial conditions to learn it

  • Especially in the first sessions, the environment where you are going to perform the relaxation should be calm, with a pleasant temperature, free of distractions and noise, lights semi-off …
  • Ideally we will make it on a comfortable sofa, armchair or bed where we have enough support for the back, head, neck and we can comfortably stretch the legs.
  • As for the clothes should be comfortable and detach any clothes that oppresses us too much.
  • At the beginning and until we learn it, it will be important to do it every day, preferably with closed eyes to allow a greater concentration, until little by little we will dominate it.

Muscle groups that we will work

The first step is to read the exercise until you become familiar with the methods and with the muscle groups that we are going to try to relax. At first, it may be a little complicated but little by little we will have mastered the whole procedure quite easily. If we group the zones that we are going to work on, it will be easier for us to remember it. It’s about starting with your hands and moving forward until you finish with your legs.

The procedure is very simple. It is about focusing our attention on each of the muscles that we are working with at each moment, we can do it following the order established in the picture of the image.

We tended each part first and immediately afterwards we tried to relax (we spent very little time tensing, enough to detect the physical signs of tension, and we spent more time perceiving the difference we experienced as we tried to reduce the tension, until we gradually got clearly discriminate the effects of relaxation). We will soon verify the difference between tension and relaxation. It is important to concentrate on the act of unfolding the muscles without performing any tension or generating any resistance. Even when we think that our muscles are already relaxed, we should try Psychology o relax them a little more .Let’s try to feel how the muscles are getting more and more and heavier. It is possible that we feel tingling or a certain heaviness or cold sensation, palpitations in certain areas of our body … this is normal and important as it is part of the relaxation process.

When we carry out the breathing exercises to tense and relax the muscles of the chest (slowly inspiring through the nose, maintaining and expelling also slowly through the mouth), we can see how inspiration produces tension and relaxation expiration, hence we try to the expiration get more and more relaxation. In this phase, it is very important to associate exhalation with relaxation.

Once we have relaxed all the muscle groups, we will try to remain as calm and relaxed as possible, making a general tour of the whole body to try to relax a little more any area that we can detect with some tension. It is at this moment when we will try to create a mental image, in which we see ourselves in a quiet, soft and extremely peaceful and pleasant scene. It can be a peaceful country landscape, a plain full of wild flowers, a warm and deserted beach, or the image of the sea with gentle waves approaching slowly towards the shore … We can use any image that helps us feel in conditions of maximum emotional satisfaction. At first it may be difficult to maintain this mental scene for more than a few seconds, but with practice it will become increasingly easy to use this type of images to increase the feeling of well-being and relaxation.

Progressive muscle relaxation exercises: hands, arms and forearms


We close our fists as loud as we can for five seconds to feel the tension that this produces. Afterwards, we relaxed completely and tried to notice the difference between what tensions was and what is relaxation. We try to concentrate all our attention on unfolding the muscles for about a minute.

Front of the arms

Now we bend the arms at the elbows to tense the muscles of the front part of the arms. We keep this position for about five seconds and then relax and let our arms hang down along our body. We continue to deploy the muscles and concentrate on the sensation of letting ourselves go for a minute or so.

Back of the arms

On this occasion, we should extend our arms as rigidly as we can. We feel the tension in the back of the arms for about five seconds and then relax. During relaxation, we extend the arms along our body and let the muscles unfold and fall with all their weight as much as we can without exerting any pressure, for about a minute. Once we have finished with this group, we use extra time and concentrate on all the muscles of the hands and arms, letting them relax until they feel more and more deeply relaxed.

Progressive muscle relaxation exercises: shoulders and neck


We shrug our shoulders, lifting them to the neck as much as we can while feeling the tension in them. We keep that same position for about five seconds and then let go and relax. We let the shoulders fall with all their weight and unfold. We maintain that feeling of letting ourselves go for a while until we perceive sensations of relaxation.


We can tighten these muscles by pressing the back of the head against the back of the chair, sofa or bed, as strong as we can, for about five seconds. We feel the tension, we concentrate on it and then relax the neck until we feel how our head rests softly and relaxed, without exerting any tension on it. We concentrate on the sensation of letting ourselves go and perceive the feelings of relaxation that are gradually arising.

Then we let the muscle groups of the neck, shoulders and arms relax as much as we can.

Progressive muscle relaxation exercises: brow, eyebrows and eyes

Forehead and scalp

Let’s tense these muscles raising the eyebrows with force. Let’s try to raise the eyebrows exercising all the tension we can and keep that same position for about five seconds. Let’s feel the tension generated and then relax. Let’s try to feel the difference between tension-relaxation and maintain the feeling of letting ourselves go, without exerting any pressure but quite the opposite, trying to deploy and deploy the muscles as much as we can while keeping the eyes still, closed or looking soft and directly forward.

Eyes and eyebrows

Let’s put them in tension by shushing them as hard as we can while closing our eyes tightly. Keep that same tension position for about five seconds and then relax. We can feel the relief of letting ourselves go and continue softening the fall of the eyebrows while trying to perceive the sensations that are slowly emerging. During the next minute let’s concentrate only on these muscles.

Then, for another minute, let the muscles around the eyes, the forehead, the neck, the shoulders and the arms relax completely.

Progressive muscle relaxation exercises: tongue, jaw and lips


These muscles can be tensed by placing the tip of the tongue on the upper palate and pressing up as strong as we can, to feel the tension in the muscles of the tongue and neck for about five seconds. Later we feel the sensation of letting ourselves go and let the tongue fall by its own weight and sink in the back of the mouth. Keep the feeling of relaxation for about a minute. Let’s do the same but, this time, against the lower palate.


It can be tightened by gritting the teeth for five seconds. We feel that tension in the jaw and then relax the muscles. Finally, let’s slightly separate the teeth, so that there is no tension in the jaw and we can feel the relief of letting ourselves go for the next minute and try to perceive the sensations that arise.


The muscles of the lips and face can be tensed by pressing one lip against the other. We maintain that position for five seconds and then relax. To do this let the lips rest together and slightly parted and continue feeling the feeling of letting go for about a minute.

Progressive muscle relaxation exercises: chest and stomach


We will do it in two phases:

  • Lung respiration:we make a slow and deep inspiration to introduce the air into the upper part of the lungs (the chest rises), we hold the breath for about five seconds and try to perceive the tension that occurs in the chest, then slowly expel the air, concentrating on the sensations that arise when the chest unfolds and letting ourselves go. Next, we breathe deeply again. We feel the tension in the chest again. We hold the breath for a few seconds, we expel the air little by little and feel the relaxation. Every time we expel the air, we feel the relief we feel when we release the air and let ourselves go. Let’s continue practicing this exercise for the next minute while concentrating on relaxation sensations.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing: we inhale the air slowly through the nose to bring the air to the lower part of the lungs (the belly rises) we hold the breath for about five seconds and feel the tension that occurs in the abdomen, then slowly expel the air, concentrating on the sensations that arise when the ventral area unfolds and go slowly relaxing. Next, we inspire deeply again. We feel the tension in the abdomen again. We hold the breath for a few seconds, we expel the air little by little and feel how we are relaxing. Each time we expel the air we feel the relief we feel when we release the air and let ourselves go without offering any resistance. We continue to practice this exercise for the next minute while concentrating on feelings of relaxation.


The muscles located around the zone of the stomach as if we were preparing ourselves to receive a blow. We feel the tension that is accumulating to keep the muscles cramped and rigid. We keep this position for about five seconds. Then we relax and let the stomach muscles fall, relaxing them as much as we can. Let’s continue feeling the sensations that arise as we slowly relax and let ourselves go.

And now, before moving on to the next group, we concentrate on relaxing all the muscles of the trunk, neck, face, arms and hands.

Progressive muscle relaxation exercises: buttocks and legs

Buttocks and legs

We tighten by squeezing the thighs and buttocks, spreading the legs forward and directing the toes down. We keep that same position for five seconds. We feel the tension in our legs and buttocks and then relax completely. Let’s feel how the tension gradually disappears from our legs and our buttocks. We continue letting ourselves go, relaxing, unfolding the muscles as much as we can and perceiving those sensations that will gradually appear.

Whole body

During the next two or three minutes we concentrate all our attention on relaxing all the big muscles, we no longer tense, we just relax. We feel how we are sinking more and more deeply into the bed, sofa or armchair as our body becomes heavier and heavier and relaxes more and more deeply. Keep that feeling in your mind as vividly as possible, enjoy it, feel those pleasant sensations that arise, feel how we relax more and more. During this period we keep our eyes closed and try to see in our mind the image we previously selected until we get to condition it in such a way that just thinking about it relaxes us. After a few minutes we open our eyes and move the body slowly until we acquire a normal muscle tone. Never get up abruptly, because we could get dizzy, but do it when we have acquired a muscular tone of activation. Once acquired, we can get up and resume our daily routine.

With this, the exercises are finished. It will be fundamental to practice how many times better until you fully master the technique. The benefits that we obtain with her will compensate all the efforts invested in her learning. Once the technique is learned we can use it in a fast and differentiated way.

Progressive muscle relaxation technique for weeks

First two weeks

We will practice the exercises, in each of the muscle groups, every day. First we tense and later relax (if we can three times a day better than two, being the best moments of the day: when we get up in the mornings, at noon and the last thing we do at night). This will be done by combining it with the TWO BREATHING TECHNIQUES (applied relaxation and relaxation by breathing), which will take approximately 30-45 minutes. A deep and voluntary breathing keeps the person physically active, intellectually playful and helps to balance and control emotions.

It may seem strange that if you want to get RELAXATION, START FIRST TENSION but you have to remember something very important, it is much easier to learn to differentiate something when we cause it intentionally than when it occurs unconsciously. In addition always after a great muscular tension occurs automatically and as a mechanism of self-recovery a relaxation. Therefore, we learn to detect the first signs, to control them and to put the necessary means to discriminate what to do, when and how to do it until we achieve something as important as learning to be as relaxed as possible before any event, both internally and externally.

Third and fourth week

Based on the progress we are making, we will reduce the time dedicated to relax.

We will spend about 30-45 minutes trying to do it in about 15-20 always combining the initial muscle groups with the image that is extremely relaxing (once relaxed, we will generate each our own image, we will try to be a very pleasant and relaxed situation like for example the image of lying on the beach feeling the sea breeze, the heat of the sand, listening to the sound of waves or seagulls …).

During these weeks we will also practice “Rapid Relaxation”. We strain our entire body and relax quickly, concentrating as much as we can and trying to achieve maximum relaxation. This we will practice standing, sitting or walking.

When this “Rapid Relaxation” is over we will try to relax the whole body without going through the tension phase, we will try to go directly to the relaxation but without putting the muscles previously in tension. We will try to leave our body, releasing all the tension, feeling the heaviness of the body abandoned to its weight, learn to detect those signals that tell us that we are relaxed, that the blood circulates through the body, that we feel its passage … Let’s do it sitting, standing, walking, doing various activities … Let’s try to see how little by little we control and perceive what happens in our body.

Fifth and sixth week

Once the previous phase has been mastered, we will practice relaxation by associating it with a reassuring word, (such as “calm”, “relax” or “quiet” …) and uniting it all with the activities we are carrying out in that moment. By establishing this association (word with relaxation and activity) we will learn to be relaxed in a very short time while we perform various activities: sitting, standing, walking, driving, working, etc…

Seventh week and following

We will practice quick relaxation many times a day in non-stressful situations, to test our learning and learn to master the technique a little better each time. Finally, we will be in optimal conditions to start applying relaxation in situations that generate tension or anxiety starting with less complicated situations, until little by little we get maximum control.

This article is purely informative, in HealthProTips we do not have the faculty to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.


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