Written by Dr. Nancy Ash, DD, PhD, worldwide executive director of the NewEarth University, a new-paradigm learning initiative of the NewEarth Project
One of the most powerful stress management exercises is PMRT or the Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique. I’ve taught this effective method for more than thirty years, especially integrated into the end of traditional Hatha Yoga classes—right before Savasana, the relaxation pose. To learn and practice this simple technique is one of the best stress relief tips I can offer you in easily reducing and managing stress levels. Use PMRT for a calmer, peaceful life free from tension.
I was first exposed to PMRT as a teen in yoga class during the preparation phase for deep relaxation, which is called Śavasana. During subsequent college studies in Stress Management during the ‘70s, I learned more about this effective tool as a separate practice, in and of itself. In other words, if you’re not into hatha yoga, it’s okay—you don’t have to be. Anyone can do PMRT.
The basic principle and first goal of this stress reduction technique is to learn to discern the opposing feelings of tension and relaxation in your body. The concept is that you have to know when your muscles are tense in order to consciously relax them. PMRT teaches this very easily.
So, the best way to do this is to contract your muscles, focus on that feeling of tension that you’ve created, release the tension, and then feel (focus on) the opposite, which is obviously relaxation.
For example: Slightly tighten your dominant hand into a fist. Please actually do this now…… Focus on it. Release the fist and keep sensing your hand … as it relaxes. Study the changing sensations of your hand as the blood flows back in, after being constricted.
With daily practice you will learn to extend relaxation throughout your entire body… from your head to your toes. It’s an awesome feeling!
There are dozens of muscle group movements taught in a PMRT program. A specific set of detailed protocols is too long for this brief article; however, I offer a taste so you may practice a little more today.
We hold tension in our face without realizing it. So, try this:
- Scrunch-up your face into a prune (not too tight)
- Hold for 5-7 seconds
- Quickly let go!
- … FEEL the sensation in your entire face r-e-l-a-x-i-n-g for about 20-30 seconds, with eyes closed
- Next exercise ………
- Now—stick out your tongue as far as you can without too much tension…
- Hold that for 5-7 seconds
- And, quickly release!
- Study the changing sensations for about 20-30 seconds with eyes closed
You should feel more relaxed now, yes?
Tense a muscle group 5-7 seconds (not too long).
Relax at least 20-30 seconds.
Practice with eyes closed to enhance sensation discernment.
Don’t tense your muscles so hard! A common mistake is using too much tension.
Release the ‘holds’ quickly, not slowly.
Practice each muscle group twice.
Relax your breathing (slower yogic breathing).
Practice daily to reduce stress levels.
You may perform Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique sitting in a chair, lying in bed, on the couch, or lying down on the floor (as in yoga relaxation). A full session of PMRT can be a few minutes up to even 40 minutes of in-depth muscle movements. Think of PMRT as a simple set of stress management exercises.
If you wish to learn more there are many books available. One of the pioneers in this field is psychologist Gerald Rosen, Ph.D., author of The Relaxation Book, 1977.
(This article was excerpted from the author’s column, Doing a 360: Sacred Spherical Strategies for Optimal Living, Dayspring, 2008.)
A longtime practitioner of Dzogchen and a teacher of Raja Yoga, Reverend Dr. Nancy Ash is known as a vajra-yogini and pioneering midwife to the new paradigm since the 1970s. Her heart-centered voice is heard worldwide as a passionate new-thought-leader, author/poet, web TV host of Kaleidoscope, and former radio co-host championing peace for all women, men and children on this planet. Dr. Ash is director of NewEarth University, a planetary hub for wisdom-keeping of the NewEarth Project; and is president of New Earth Theological University (online), working as a professor and postgrad advisor for its School of Interspiritual Studies. In tandem with decades of multi-dimensional work as a Oneness Advocate in the field of evolutionary consciousness, she is honored to serve as a founding trustee for the International Tribunal for Natural Justice (ITNJ), to ensure that human rights are fairly and nobly upheld, restoring justice-making to the people. Nancy resides in the enchanted mountains of New Mexico, and has authored two books: Garland of Grace: Sitting with the Dying Sun, and, Doing a 360: Turning Your Life Around to Follow Soul’s Purpose.