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Progressive muscle relaxation

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

Relaxation sequence

FDP chaise longue

  1. Right 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 tightly 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 pull your head back slowly, as though you're 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 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. Pull your toes towards you to stretch the calf muscle. Do this slowly and carefully to avoid cramps.
  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.

Repeat the whole process three to four times.

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. Last reviewed April 2018.


Image courtesy of Ambro at

Page reference: 102480

Review key: HIRLT-102470