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Progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is one method of reducing muscle tension. This involves tensing up particular muscles and then relaxing them.

Relaxation sequence

  1. FDP chaise longueRight hand and forearm. Make a fist with your right hand.
  2. Right upper arm. Bring your right forearm up to your shoulder to "make a muscle".
  3. Left hand and forearm.
  4. Left upper arm.
  5. Forehead. Raise your eyebrows as high as they will go, as though you were surprised by something.
  6. Eyes and cheeks. Squeeze your eyes tight shut.
  7. Mouth and jaw. Open your mouth as wide as you can, as you might when you're yawning.
  8. Neck. Be careful as you tense these muscles. Face forward and then pull your head back slowly, as though you are looking up to the ceiling.
  9. Shoulders. Tense the muscles in your shoulders as you bring your shoulders up towards your ears.
  10. Shoulder blades and back. Push your shoulder blades back, trying to almost touch them together, so that your chest is pushed forward.
  11. Chest and stomach. Breathe in deeply, filling up your lungs and chest with air.
  12. Hips and buttocks. Squeeze your buttock muscles.
  13. Right upper leg. Tighten your right thigh.
  14. Right lower leg. Do this slowly and carefully to avoid cramps. Pull your toes towards you to stretch the calf muscle.
  15. Right foot. Curl your toes downwards.
  16. Left upper leg. Repeat as for right upper leg.
  17. Left lower leg. Repeat as for right lower leg.
  18. Left foot. Repeat as for right foot.

Through practice you can become more aware of your muscles, how they respond with tension, and how you can relax them.

Training your body to respond differently to stress is like any training – practising consistently is the key. Then, when you start to feel anxious, you can progressively tense and relax your muscles to help calm yourself.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. May 2014.


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Review key: HIRLT-102470