Passive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a technique used for anxiety, stress, insomnia, and even pain. This technique works by tension and relaxing parts of the body. PMR was invented by American physician Edmund Jacobson way back in the 1930s. Today, it is used as part of a holistic treatment plan for anxiety-related disorders and practiced by many at home who need to relax on a deeper level. Similar to yoga nidra, this type of relaxation goes far deeper than a typical rest. It is this deep state of relaxation that makes PMR so effective.
How does Passive Muscle Relaxation work and how can you try this technique at home? What are the biggest benefits that this technique has to offer? Keep reading to find out more about PMR.
Passive Muscle Relaxation Exercises
The is a clear link between the mind and body – especially where anxiety and stress are concerned. The reason that Passive Muscle Relaxation works is that it taps into this connection. Being consciously aware of the body as you tense one muscle group at a time, moving from the feet upwards, and then relaxing each group, brings about a deep state of relaxation. This can be very useful during panic attacks to force the body to relax. It can also help anxiety and stress by allowing your body and mind to take a time out. For sleep issues, entering a deep state of relaxation makes it a lot easier to ease into sleep – especially if the exercises are done in bed.
There are a few ways to practice PMR. You can do a solo practice, guiding yourself through each part of the body. This can be a good way to practice if you are in bed and wanting to drift off into sleep. For many people, guided PMR is easier, as it allows your brain to focus on a voice rather than trying to think about which body part you need to tense and relax. There are many great videos and guided meditations (I’ll list a few a bit later).
To do this exercise, here is how you need to proceed:
- Start at the feet, taking a deep breath in and tensing your muscles for about 5-10 seconds. As you breathe out, release the tension in the same area.
- Let the entire body relax for about 10-20 seconds before you move up the body to the next muscle group.
- Continue to move your way up your body, tensing and releasing each muscle group as you go.
- Focusing on each part of the body as you progress will also help. You can visualise the part or you can visualise stress leaving the body as each part is relaxed.
- Once you reach the final part, the face, take a minute or few to let your entire body relax completely.
Some good videos to try if you’re looking for a guided PMR practice include this 10 minute Guided Progressive Muscle Relaxation with Music, this 15 minute Progressive Muscle Relaxation, and this 12 minute Passive Muscle Relaxation to Manage Anxiety and Stress. Insight Timer (my favourite meditation app) also has a number of similar meditations for this type of technique.
Used as part of a broader treatment plan, this technique is a highly effective tool for anxiety and stress. It can also help you recover from illness or ease tension and headaches after a long day. Get comfortable, find a quiet space, and try Passive Muscle Relaxation for yourself to reap its many rewards for total well-being.