Progressive muscle relaxation: Instructions & effects

Progressive muscle relaxation, or PMR for short, is a relaxation method developed by the US doctor Edmund Jacobson, which is used to create a state of deep relaxation of the entire body through the voluntary tension and relaxation of certain muscle groups. It is a therapeutic method with proven effectiveness that has become an integral part of outpatient and inpatient psychotherapy. The exercises are easy to do at home, and regular use can relieve stress and reduce stress-related symptoms in the body. Read on if you want to learn how to better perceive your body and how to use PMR to release psychological and physical blockages!

In this article you will learn

  • What Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation is
  • How you can use progressive muscle relaxation
  • What effect progressive muscle relaxation has on your body
  • Which symptoms can be relieved with PME (Progressive Muscle Relaxation)

Feel better with regular relaxation exercises

Where does tension come from on a physical and emotional level?

Tension in everyday life arises from various stress factors such as overworking at work, interpersonal conflicts or potentially existence-threatening situations such as a termination with a consequent lack of financial resources or the death of a close relative. However, it can also be a side effect of various diseases . Chronic pain, anxiety, depression also lead to physical stress. This often manifests itself in high blood pressure, inner restlessness, gnashing of teeth, cramped head and shoulder posture, pain z. B. in the neck and back area or problems with digestion such as acid belching or abdominal pain.

Help through relaxation exercises: Reduce stress through relaxation exercises

Relaxation exercises and methods for mental and physical relaxation are diverse and on everyone’s lips. Everyone has to find out for themselves whether meditation, yoga, mindfulness exercises or light sport are the right thing to do. The type of offer to integrate relaxation into everyday life is also huge. You can attend appropriate courses, learn relaxation techniques online or use timers and apps on your mobile phone to remind you that it is time for a little break to relax.

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Regular relaxation exercises will help you reduce your stress in everyday life. 

The benefits of Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation

Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation has the advantage that it can be used at any time (for example in the office, on the train or at home in front of the television ). It can help to reduce stress relatively quickly, to relax and, as a result, even to reduce anxiety. It is easy for children to learn and carry out without attending a course or a therapist.

Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation

What is Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation?

Who was it designed by?

Progressive muscle relaxation was developed by the US doctor Edmund Jacobson, after whom the method is also named. For twenty years he researched the connection between excessive muscular tension and physical and mental illnesses before he published his experiences in the specialist literature for the first time in 1929.

What does progressive mean?

The word “progressive” comes from the Latin word “progressus”, which means “progress” or “progress” in German. In relation to the muscle relaxation process, this means that you work on the individual muscle groups one after the other until all muscles are completely relaxed. The regular use of the technique can lead to a systematic desensitization of the person affected by states of tension and thus contribute to the symptomatic relief of their complaints.

Who is the method suitable for?

In principle, the method developed by Jacobson is suitable for all people who pay more attention to their body and want to learn to be more relaxed . Because PMR is easy to learn and can be used practically anywhere, it is also suitable for children who can perform progressive muscle relaxation with an adult.

What is the principle behind it?

In PME, certain muscle groups are first consciously tensed and then relaxed again in order to achieve a state of complete physical relaxation.

What are the goals of the method?

Regular use of PME is aimed at lowering muscle tension below normal levels . This should primarily be achieved through improved body awareness, which arises when concentrating on the individual body parts and their tension and relaxation. People who use PME should learn over time to consciously relax their muscles whenever they want – for example in stressful situations, with psychosomatic pain or with problems falling asleep and staying asleep.

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How does Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation differ from other relaxation methods?

One of the most popular relaxation methods besides progressive muscle relaxation is autogenic training . Although the goals are the same – namely to achieve complete relaxation of the body and thus also the mind – they are different in terms of the process . While muscle groups in the body are consciously tightened and relaxed again with PMR, autogenic training focuses primarily on influencing the body through thoughts alone, the so-called autosuggestion. If you would like to find out more about autogenic training, you can read our tips here .

 Effects on the body as well as on the psyche

Progressive muscle relaxation has been shown to have many positive effects on the body and psyche . With regular use, for example, arousal or physical restlessness should be reduced , tense muscles loosened and pain reduced . Psychosomatic complaints are to be contained and anxiety states resolved. In principle, the method is said to have a significant reduction in physically perceived stress and the associated symptoms.

What does science say

The effect of PME has been scientifically proven through various clinical studies and is considered to be the relaxation method that is best suited for clinical practice .

Progressive muscle relaxation can also be used at home at any time.
How to Use PME Correctly

The progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson follows an easy-to-learn and always the same pattern:

  • Lie down and breathe in and out calmly. If you want, you can close your eyes while doing this. This helps you to concentrate better on your body and to block out external influences.
  • Draw your attention to the appropriate area of ​​the body, for example the right arm or the left leg.
  • Tense the muscles in the part of the body you are concentrating on. Consciously perceive the resulting tension and feel how the tense body region feels now.
  • Hold the tension for about 10 to 15 seconds while continuing to breathe in and out calmly.
  • Slowly release the tension in the affected area of ​​the body while exhaling and enjoy the resulting relaxation for 45 to 60 seconds.
  • Now change the body region and do the exercise on the other side of the body (left arm, right leg) in the same way.
  • For example, you can start the exercise with your hands, moving it over the arms into the neck, over the back and stomach in the thighs and lower legs and down to your feet until you have reached a state of complete physical relaxation.
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Of course, you can also do this exercise while sitting, for example on the train or in the office. It is important that you do the muscular tension in sections and not tense and relax your entire body at once. To carry out the exercise, you should allow yourself about 20 to 30 minutes a day at the beginning to learn the method correctly, later 10 to 15 minutes are completely sufficient if necessary . If you feel uncomfortable tensing and relaxing certain parts of the body, release the tension and move on to the next region.

Warning: If you have pre-existing psychological or physical illnesses, you should ask your doctor for advice before using these exercises as to whether Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation is right for you!

Progressive muscle relaxation for digestive disorders

If you suffer from indigestion, progressive muscle relaxation can help you cope better with symptoms such as cramps, pain and nausea . PMR is a holistic procedure that can have positive effects on your entire body . Especially if you are plagued by psychosomatic digestive disorders, this relaxation method can help you alleviate the resulting symptoms. Here you can find out more about psychosomatic abdominal pain .

Progressive muscle relaxation can also help you relieve the symptoms of indigestion with cramps.

Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation

There are many different relaxation exercises and methods. Many can help relieve physical and emotional pain. Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation method in particular has many health benefits – both physical and mental – and is easy to perform . You can try to have a positive effect on symptoms such as abdominal cramps through regular use . Just try out our instructions!

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