Progressive Muscle Relaxation Techniques with Michelle
“Frankie Says Relax”
Remember the sagacious words of Frankie Goes to Hollywood in their iconic song “Relax”. OK so the connotation is not quite the same, (wow I was so innocent back then. I thought they just wanted us to sit back and smell the roses. I couldn’t understand why my mum wouldn’t let me get the record), and I am so showing my age, but I loved those t-shirts with their pithy message. Obviously after my last blog (“Serenity Now”) everyone will now be living Frankie’s dream of relaxation and have achieved their personal Nirvana. Life is bound to be filled with lolly pops, kittens and an unlimited supply of dark chocolate just when it’s at that not quite solid not quite liquid, level of gooey goodness (well the later may be my own personal idea of bliss, but you can insert your own blissful fantasy). We have all learnt to breathe our way to serenity, and that my friends, is an award worthy achievement when you live in a permanent brain fog. Now just in case any one is still having difficulty finding their bliss, here is an alternative, or addition as the case may be, you can have up your sleeve for the days when your serenity begins to slip.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
I like progressive muscle relaxation as it’s yet another reason to commune with my couch. I never realised they had memory foam back in the early 90s when we bought it, but that perfect mould is there to welcome me each morning. At its most basic, Progressive Muscle Relation simply involves the slow and progressive tensing and releasing of muscles. Most commonly it begins at the head and works down to the toes, but this can vary. If you have a bad back, neck etc you may want to double check with your doctor about doing some of the movements. I know it’s obvious but after the MacDonald’s Hot Coffee Litigation I just have to add, if it hurts STOP! Also peanut butter may contain peanuts, and milk may contain dairy products (I love today’s product warnings). Now you may also be concerned that you will look a little bit mad, especially doing the facial exercises, but this is the price we pay for bliss. Just remember not to hold it too long or the wind may change!
With many of us living in a brain fog which impacts upon our ability to focus and remember for more than two seconds, it can be really useful to create your own audio tapes of these scripts. Alternatively you can download a number of free versions on the web. One site that has numerous free scripts and audio versions is http . There are many other sites which have similar information and I am not giving this site an endorsement in any way, I just like that it has a wide variety of techniques you can have a read through.
There are a few basic preparations before you try this technique.
·Remember to use your already highly professional breathing skills when practising.
·Practice in a quite place with no TV, radio, music or screaming kids.
·Take off your shoes and wear loose comfortable clothing (personally I like pj’s in bed).
·Sit in a comfortable chair. Thanks to the joys of pooling I usually sit with my feet propped up and slightly reclined.
·Sit with loose limbs. No crossed arms or legs.
·The aim is not to fall asleep, but don’t stress if you do. Let’s face it we often have insomnia despite being exhausted so I see sleep as a bonus.
·When you finish (if you are still awake) count backwards slowly from 5 to 1 then say “Eyes open. Awake. Relaxed”.
·Sit for a few minutes before rising. You don’t want to ruin all that relaxing by going arse up as soon as you stand. Whilst seated roll your ankles gently and move your legs to get the blood flowing.
·There are long and short versions of these techniques.
I like to begin with the breathing exercise I wrote about in the last blog to get me in the zone. Again preparation is everything. If the kids are screaming at each other, the dog just threw up on the carpet, the potatoes boiled over and you now have that foul burnt potato water smell in the house and your husband has just rung to let you know that he is 10 minutes away and bringing home a workmate for tea, then screaming “serenity now” at the top of your lungs may still be the best method of coping. If however, the kids are in bed, the dog has been banished to the backyard, dinner is done and your husband is on the computer geeking out, or doing his old man snoring on the couch, this may be the time to try progressive muscle relaxation. So here goes.
This quick script is from
Remember: Tense for a slow count of five. Release/relax for a count of 10.
1. Hands. The fists are tensed; relaxed. The fingers are extended; relaxed.
2. Biceps and triceps. The biceps are tensed (make a muscle–but shake your hands to make sure not tensing them into a fist); relaxed (drop your arm to the chair–really drop them). The triceps are tensed (try to bend your arms the wrong way); relaxed (drop them).
3. Shoulders. Pull them back (careful with this one); relax them. Push the shoulders forward (hunch); relax.
4. Neck (lateral). With the shoulders straight and relaxed, the head is turned slowly to the right, as far as you can; relax. Turn to the left; relax.
5. Neck (forward). Dig your chin into your chest; relax. (Bringing the head back is not recommended–you could break your neck).
6. Mouth. The mouth is opened as far as possible; relaxed. The lips are brought together or pursed as tightly as possible; relaxed.
7. Tongue (extended and retracted). With mouth open, extend the tongue as far as possible; relax (let it sit in the bottom of your mouth). Bring it back in your throat as far as possible; relax.
8. Tongue (roof and floor). Dig your tongue into the roof of your mouth; relax. Dig it into the bottom of your mouth; relax.
9. Eyes. Open them as wide as possible (furrow your brow); relax. Close your eyes tightly (squint); relax. Make sure you completely relax the eyes, forehead, and nose after each tensing–this is actually a toughie.
10. Breathing. Take as deep a breath as possible–and then take a little more; let it out and breathe normally for 15 seconds. Let all the breath in your lungs out–and then a little more; inhale and breathe normally for 15 seconds.
11. Back. With shoulders resting on the back of the chair, push your body forward so that your back is arched; relax. Be very careful with this one, or don’t do it at all.
12. Butt. Tense the butt tightly and raise pelvis slightly off chair; relax. Dig buttocks into chair; relax.
13. Thighs. Extend legs and raise them about 6″ off the floor or the foot rest–but don’t tense the stomach’ relax. [Or simply tense your thigh muscles] Dig your feet (heels) into the floor or foot rest; relax.
14. Stomach. Pull in the stomach as far as possible; relax completely. Push out the stomach or tense it as if you were preparing for a punch in the gut; relax.
15. Calves and feet. Point the toes (without raising the legs); relax. Point the feet up as far as possible (beware of cramps-if you get them or feel them coming on, shake them loose); relax.
16. Toes. With legs relaxed, dig your toes into the floor; relax. Bend the toes up as far as possible; relax.
So there you go. Now you have no excuse for not being completely relaxed. As the Queen of Blues, Dinah Washington says:
Stay cool, fool
Just take it easy
That’s the rule, fool (Relax Max, 1956)
Hmmm… On second thoughts that really sounds more like advice from Mr T, “Relax Fool”!
Well whether you wish to take your mantra from George Costanza, Frankie, Dinah or Mr T, we do need to find a way to relax our minds and bodies, we deserve it!
(OK I’ll admit this one is a bit of a rambler. It’s been a rough couple of weeks thanks to Bob and his prescription posse, and my brain is still on holidays. Hopefully it’ll come back refreshed and with a great tan in the next few weeks.)