copyright notice is at the bottom

Relax Your Muscles
by Dr. Beverly Potter

You learn to relax muscles in the same way
that you learned to wiggle your ears.

One way to reduce stress is to relax your muscles which is a skill.


Learn to discriminate between sensations of tension and those of relaxation.
You must know what a tensed muscle feels like so that you can notice it an relax it.  You also must know what a relaxed muscles feels like. You do this through observation.
The following experiment illustrates how this works.
Sensing -Tension Experiment
Step One: Lightly tense (just enough to notice) your left hand to make a fist.
Watch exactly where and how the sensation of tension feels for you.
Step Two: Create contrast in the sensations by quickly releasing the tension and consciously relaxing the muscles in your left
Compare how your hand feels when relaxed with how it felt when tense.
Learning to identify tension in your muscles involves systematically tensing and relaxing various muscle groups throughout your
body, one at a time, while studying how the sensations feel.

The objective is to learn to identify small amounts of tension so that
you can then take action to reduce the tension when it is still manageable and bring your activation level back into the optimal or mid-range.

Studying Tension and Relaxation
Instructions: Lie on your bed, couch, or a futon on the floor or sit in an overstuffed chair. Kick off your shoes and loosen your belt and any tight clothing.

First: Tense and relax each muscle listed below, one at a time, as follows. With eyes closed, tighten the muscle just enough to
notice the tension. Do not tense tightly. Hold the tension for about seven seconds while studying the physical sensation of tension in the muscle.

Second: Quickly release the tension from the muscle and relax it as much as you can. Study the sensation of relaxation for ten seconds. Compare the sensation of relaxation and tension.

Third: Tighten the muscle just enough to notice the tension a second time. Again, study the tension and compare the feeling relaxation. Then quickly release the tension and relax the muscle and study the relaxation and compare it to tension.


(Hand and forearm) Make a fist.

(Biceps) Bend the arm at the elbow and make a "he-man" muscle.


(Face) Squint eyes, wrinkle nose, and try to pull your whole face into a point at the center.

(Forehead) Knit or raise eyebrows.

(Cheeks) While clenching the teeth, pull the corners of your mouth to your ears.

(Nose and upper lip) With mouth slightly open, slowly bring upper lip down to lower lip.

(Mouth) Bring lips together into a tight point, then press mouth into teeth. Blow out gently to relax.

(Mouth) Press the right corner of your mouth into your teeth and push the corner slowly toward the center of your mouth.
Repeat for the left corner.

(Lips and tongue) With teeth slightly apart press lips together and push tongue into top of mouth.

(Chin) With arms crossed over chest, stick out your chin and turn it slowly as far as it will go to the left. Repeat for right side.

(Neck) Push your chin into your chest at the same time as pushing your head backward into the back of your chair to create a


(Shoulders) Attempt to touch your ears with your shoulders.

(Upper back) Push shoulder blades together and stick out chest.

(Chest) Take a deep breath.

(Stomach) Pull stomach into spine or push it out.

(Buttocks) Tighten buttocks and push into chair.

(Thighs) Straighten leg and tighten thigh muscles.

(Calves) Point toes toward your head.

(Toes) Curl your toes.

One Muscle Group at a Time

Tense only the muscles you are studying while keeping other muscles relaxed. If you make a fist at the same time that you bend
your arm and make the "he-man" muscle, you are tensing two muscle groups rather than one. Doing this makes it harder to
study the sensation of tension in the biceps.


The idea is to discriminate between two feelings - tension and relaxation - so that you can recognize each.

The way that you do this is by comparing one against the other. To train yourself to identify small amounts of tension, you study the sensations in a tense muscle, then compare that feeling to how the muscle feels when relaxed.


It takes about twenty-five minutes to go through your entire body slowly and systematically tensing and relaxing your muscles.


You must practice to learn to discriminate, so do the exercise as often as possible. If you do it every day, that's very good. You can develop an internal monitor by observing the sensations in your entire body at least three times a week for two or three weeks.

Study the more tension-prone areas, such as muscles in your face or shoulders for five to seven minutes
each day.

In as short a time as two weeks you will notice you are much more tuned into your activation level. The more you practice, the better your internal monitor will become.


Training yourself to relax is a simple process that takes about three weeks and has two important components. First, you must
learn to identify tension in the muscles. Without this sensing ability or "internal monitor," you will not know when to relax.
Second, when you have identified tension, you command the tension to be released.


Learning a "relax cue" can be done while you develop your internal monitor.
Select a word to use to cue yourself to relax. It can
be any word, but "relax" is a good word because it already has the association.

When we're tense other people use "relax" to urge
us to calm down. However, you might want to use a different word such as "calm down," or "quiet." Many people prefer to use a religious word or phrase like "God is my shepherd."

The objective is to create a strong association between your word and the feeling of releasing tension.

How to Train the Relax Cue

Step One: Select a command word for programming.

Step Two: Tense the practice muscle for 7-10 seconds.

Step Three: Think the cue word just before you quickly release the tension from the muscle.

Learning the relax cue can be easily integrated into the development of your internal monitor as follows:

Tense the practice muscle, study the sensation of tension, think the relax cue, release the tension, study the sensation of relaxation, and compare it to tension.

Copyright © 1980, 1993, 1998: Beverly A. Potter, from "Overcoming Job Burnout: How to Renew Enthusiasm for Work", Ronin.  All Rights Reserved. This article man be down loaded for person use.  Any other use requires written permission from docpotter.

Back to Burnout Collection Table of Contents