Make yourself comfortable either sitting upright in a chair, or lying down. Close your eyes, relax and take a deep breath in. Slowly breathe out as you expel the worries from your mind. Maintain this breathing pattern throughout the exercise, breathing in relaxation and breathing out any tension. Take another deep breath in and let it out, telling yourself “I am relaxed and calm.”
In this exercise we will relax each muscle group from head to toe, beginning with the upper body. Try to focus on the way your muscles feel, and the relaxation that you experience. Let’s begin.
Face-Tighten the muscles of your face by making a grimace, squeezing your eyes shut, and wrinkling your forehead. Hold the contraction and feel the tension……, and now release. Feel the difference in your muscles that are now relaxed.
Neck- Bend your neck by tilting your head to your left shoulder. Feel the tightness through the side of your neck. Return to the center, and now tilt your head to your right shoulder. Again, notice the tension in the side of your neck. Return to the center, and notice that the tension is now released. Take a deep breath in, and slowly let it out. Next, tilt your head back. Hold this, and now relax. Bend your neck forward, as if to touch your chin to your chest. (pause) Slowly lift your head back to its normal position, noticing your neck feels tall and strong.
Shoulders- Pull your shoulder blades back towards each other. Then release, as you return your shoulders to their normal position. Now curve your back by rolling your shoulders forward. Hold the contraction, and relax. Next, arch your back, feel the tension, and relax. Shrug your shoulders as if to touch your ears. Hold the tension, and release the stress.
Take a deep breath in, hold this, and now release. Feel yourself breathing in relaxation, and breathing out tension.
Upper chest- Take another deep breath in, feeling your chest and abdomen expand. Hold the breath in, feeling the stretch in your muscles. Now slowly exhale and feel your muscles relax as your stomach falls.
Abdomen- Tighten your abdominal muscles. Feel the tightness of your muscles. Now relax.
Arms- Tense your upper arms by bending at the elbow and flexing your bicep muscle. Notice the contraction and the tension in your arms. Slowly unfold your arms and relax. Clench your fists, hold this, and now release the tension. Hands- Firmly press your fingertips into your palms by bending at the knuckle. Feel the tension in your hands. Slowly uncurl your fingers. Now just lightly touch your fingertips to your palms. Hold this, and relax.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH IN, TELLING YOURSELF, I AM RELAXED AND CALM. HOLD IT, AND NOW EXHALE ANY TENSION IN YOUR BODY. Take one more deep breath in, and let it out.
Buttocks— Squeeze your buttock muscles together. Hold the tension, and now release the stress.
Thighs- Focus on your legs. Contract your thigh muscles tightly. Now relax them, and notice the feelings in your leg muscles. Now contract them again, this time with only half of the intensity. Let go of the contraction, and release the stress.
Calves- Next, tense your calf muscles by pointing your toes out in front of you. Hold the contraction. Now slowly release the tension, returning your foot to a comfortable position. Point your toes toward the ceiling to contract the calf muscles again, but this time with less intensity. Hold this. Now relax the muscles and feel the tension leaving your legs.
Feet- Curl your toes under as tightly as you can, and hold the contraction. Concentrate on the tense feeling in your toes and feet. Now release the stress.
Feel the contrast in your muscles from when you started the exercise until now. Notice that your muscles are now completely relaxed.
Take a deep breath in. Hold it, and release. Open your eyes, and feel the relaxation in your muscles. Notice how refreshed and energized you feel. Begin to think about what you will do when you finish this exercise, and what the rest of the day holds. Continue to breathe in relaxation, and breathe out tension. When you are ready, slowly get up out of your chair, stretch if you need to, and go on with your day.
© 2008 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign