Progressive
Muscle Relaxation


Background and
History


The American doctor and physiologist Dr. Edmund Jacobson (1888 - 1983) founded progressive muscle relaxation as a relaxation method and began developing it starting in 1908 in the United States. After more than 20 years of research, he published his results for an academic audience. His publication You must relax appeared for a broader audience in 1934.

People who practice PMR experience peace and relaxation, must as they do when contemplating beautiful landscapes.

By carrying out scientific investigations, Jacobson was able to prove that there is a correlation between excessive muscle tension and certain emotional and physical states. Briefly put, Jacobson ascertained that exertion and tension are always accompanied by a shortening of muscle fibers in the human body, and he recognized relaxation as being the opposite of tension. He also recognized that muscular tension and stress generally occur together. The scientific work that Jacobson carried out allowed him to prove that this principle also works in the reverse direction. In other words, the process of relaxing muscles exerts a calming, relaxing, and stress-reducing effect on the nervous system. This ascertainment constitutes the foundation of progressive muscle relaxation, also referred to as “PMR.”

Progressive
Muscle Relaxation
and Stress Management


Generally, when people practice progressive muscle relaxation, it intensifies their ability to perceive sensations in their bodies. They are then able to better sense muscle tension and reduce this tension.

The ability to reduce muscle tension is important for the reasons mentioned above: it goes hand in hand with a reduction nervous system activity and induces relaxation. Furthermore, this form of muscular relaxation can help reduce pain and signs of corporeal agitation, such as trembling.

After their bodies have been conditioned to a certain extent, people who regularly practice PMR can willfully induce relaxation of their muscles at any time. Put differently, practicing PMR on a regular basis enables them to reduce excessive physical and emotional stress and reach a state of relaxation in their everyday lives.

Why use Progressive
Muscle Relaxation
for Stress Prevention?


For the reasons mentioned above, progressive muscle relaxation is an optimal method of preventing stress and thus health problems that stress causes or worsens.

This method’s relaxing effects occur automatically through a form of feedback between muscles and the nervous system. Progressive muscle relaxation is one of the most thoroughly researched relaxation procedures, and research has proven the existence of this feedback. In turn, the feedback reduces tension, even if participants do not feel these relaxing effects or perceive them only to a slight degree. When people practice progressive muscle relaxation, it is therefore impossible for them not to relax. As a result, one of the common stress concerns of stress prevention does not apply to this method: people do not have to worry whether they are doing the exercise correctly because there is simply no “right” or “wrong” way to practice PMR.

Progressive muscle relaxation is one of the most widely used relaxation methods not only because it has a solid scientific foundation but also because it is easy to learn.

Visualizations or imaginary trips to safe places like this one can be incorporated into PMR.

How can you
Practice Progressive -
Muscle Relaxation?


When people practice PMR, they place individual muscles or muscle groups under tension and then hold this tension briefly before releasing it. In this process, they focus on the muscles in question, observing the contrast between tension and relaxation and the sensations that accompany these states. The more often people practice this method, the more they develop a sense of their muscles’ optimum state of relaxation. After practitioners have conditioned their bodies to the extent necessary, they can even induce this state at will: in their everyday lives, in stressful situations, or anytime they wish. This muscular relaxation automatically triggers mental relaxation.

The aforementioned conditioning requires time and discipline. However, people who frequently practice this method can soon begin combining muscles or muscle groups and thus shorten the amount of time required considerably. This time reduction increases PMR’s suitability for everyday life and makes it a practical method.

People can practice PMR in different positions, such as lying down or sitting. Generally speaking, practicing this method in as many different positions and settings as possible makes it easier to induce a state of relaxation in as many different situations as possible. It is important to practice without any “frills,” so to speak, so that the body is not conditioned to associate relaxation with a certain stimulus such as music or incense. If the body becomes trained to relate relaxation to a given stimulus, people can find it much more difficult to relax in stressful situations if the stimulus concerned is absent. When practicing PMR, people may experience certain corporeal sensations such as stomach rumbling or tingling. Yawning is also common. All of them are perfectly normal and no cause for worry.

Go placidly amid the
noise and haste,
and remember what peace
there may be in silence.

Max Ehrmann, American writer

Who can Practice
Progressive Muscle
Relaxation?


The most important prerequisites are interest in the method, curiosity, and openness. The method is suitable for everybody who is able to tense individual muscles and muscle groups.

When properly used, progressive muscle relaxation has no serious health-related side effects. However, people who have certain illnesses or disorders are advised against practicing this relaxation method. If you have or suspect you have acute symptoms of an illness or symptoms that have not been diagnosed, you should consult a physician before beginning to practice any relaxation method.

At L.o.S., PMR is taught and practiced only as a form of stress management and prevention and not as intervention or therapy. It is used in non-therapeutic areas of application such as stress management and to alleviate light muscle tension. When relaxation methods are used for or as part of therapy, a medical professional or health professional must conduct the sessions and supervise progress.