Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique for reducing anxiety by alternately tensing and relaxing the muscles. It was developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the early 1920s. Jacobson believed that since muscle tension accompanies anxiety, one can reduce anxiety by learning how to relax the muscular tension.
Anxieties and muscular tension are common for all eating disorder sufferers. Therefore, Progressive muscle relaxation is a usefull practice to reduce and even eliminate these symptoms.
Other benefits of Progressive muscle relaxation for eating disorder people are:
– relaxing the body and the mind
– diminishing the urges to binge, purge or startve yourself
– decreasing headaches,
– improving sleep
– making you focus on the present moment instead of being in the past or future.
The exercises require you to tense and relax 16 muscle groups in your body step by step. For some, you will be required to stretch your legs forward and do other stretches for which your posture is important. Therefore you will benefit most if you avoid lying down throughout these exercises. Also, most people who lie down tend to fall asleep during the exercise, but this is not the purpose. You are encouraged to sit comfortably in a chair or armchair which can keep your back comfortable and straight.
Now take a few slow deep breaths, deep in your stomach and begin to relax.
As you let your body relax, clench your fists and bend them back at the wrist, tighter and tighter. Keep breathing and feel the tension in your fists and forearms. Now relax. Feel the looseness in your hands and forearms. Notice the contrast with tension.
Now bend your elbows and tense your biceps. Tense them as hard as you can and observe the feeling of tightness. Let your arms drop down now and relax. Feel the difference between tension and relaxation.
Now turn your attention to your head, and wrinkle your forehead. Yes, as tight as you can. Tight, tight, yes feel the tension. Keep breathing and feel the tension in the forehead and scalp. Now relax and smooth it out. Imagine your entire forehead and scalp becoming smooth and at rest.
Now frown and notice the strain spreading throughout your forehead. Keep breathing, and let go. Relax. Allow your brow to become smooth again.
Now squeeze your eyes closed. Tighter. Keep breathing, and relax your eyes. Let them remained closed, gently and comfortably.
Now open your mouth wide and feel tension in your jaw. Now relax your jaw. When the jaw is relaxed your lips will be slightly parted. Notice the contrast between tension and relaxation.
Now press your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Experience the ache at the back of your mouth. Keep breathing through your nose. And relax.
Press your lips now, purse them into an “O” shape. And now relax your lips. Feel the relaxation in your forehead, scalp, eyes, jaw, tongue, and lips. Let go more and more.
Now roll your head slowly around your neck, feeling the point of tension shifting as your head moves. And then slowly roll your head the other way. Keep breathing. Good, now relax, allowing your head to return to a comfortable upright position.
Now shrug your shoulders. Bring your shoulders up towards your ears. Hold it… And drop your shoulders back down and feel the relaxation spreading through your neck, throat, and shoulders. Pure relaxation, deeper and deeper. Shrug the shoulders again…and drop it. Feel the sensation of being relaxed in your shoulders.
Now breathe in and fill up your lungs completely and hold your breath. Experience tension. Now exhale and let your chest become loose. Try again. Filling your lungs completely and hold your breath. Experience the tension, you might even feel sensations in your cheeks and face. Now exhale. Continue relaxing, letting your breath come freely and gently. Notice the tension draining out of your muscles with each exhalation.
Next, tighten your stomach and hold. Feel the tension. And relax. Now place your hands on your stomach. Breathe deeply into your stomach pushing your hand up. Hold. And relax. Feel the contrast of relaxation as the air rushes out. Try again. Place your hand on your stomach. Breathe deeply into your stomach pushing your hand up, and hold. And relax.
Now arch your back, without straining. Keep the rest of your body as relaxed as possible. Focus on the tension in your lower back. Now relax. Let the tension dissolve away.
Now, tighten your buttocks and thighs. Feel the tension… Relax and feel the difference. Try again. Tighten your buttocks and thighs. Strongly, tighter, keep breathing, feel the tension. And relax.
Now straighten and tense your legs and curl your toes downwards. Keep breathing. Experience the tension. And relax. Again, straighten and tense your legs, but this time bend your toes towards your face. Bend your toes towards your face. Tighter, tighter, keep breathing, feel the tension. And relax.
Feel the comfortable warmth and heaviness of deep relaxation throughout your entire body as you continue to breathe slowly and deeply. You can relax even more as you move up through your body, letting go of the last bit of tension in your body. Start with the feet. Relax your feet. Move up and relax your ankles. Relax your calves. Relax your shins. Relax your knees, your thighs, and buttocks. Let the relaxation spread through your stomach, to your lower back, to your chest. Let go more and more. Feel the relaxation deepening in your shoulders, in your arms, and in your hands. Deeper and deeper. Notice the feeling of looseness and relaxation in your neck, your jaw, your face, and your scalp.
Continue to breathe, slowly and deeply, down in your stomach. Your entire body is comfortably loose and relaxed, calm, and rested…
Regular practice of this simple technique will significantly reduce the muscular tension in your whole body and reduce the anxiety which is a common culprit of why people start binging, purging or starving themselves.