Edmund Jacobson created the progressive relaxation method. At the beginning of the 20th century, he conceived a method to relax whose goal was to achieve mental tranquility by progressively eliminating all muscular tensions. It’s intended to learn to relax step by step all the different groups of muscles. Subsequently, D.A. Bernstein and T.D. Borkovec (1973/1983) carried out an integration and systematization of this method to escape from the array of variations that had been emerging.
The final objective of this kind relaxation is to reduce the physiological symptoms of anxiety. The relaxation works on the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) the opposite way from stress, so one can’t be anxious and relaxed at the same time. It’s important that you carry it out correctly and on a daily basis, until you master it and you’re able to whenever and wherever you wish.
T. Carnwath and D. Miller presented a pattern in 3 stages. The first stage uses breathing, the second one is based upon progressive relaxation and the third one uses a visualization technique.
This was an adaptation from Jacobson’s progressive relaxation and from Bernstein and Borkovec’s methods, yet we’re going to incorporate Dr. Carnwath and Dr. Miller’s breathing and visualization techniques. We deem necessary to undergo a supervised training at a doctor’s office, to do this relaxation techniques accurately. Nonetheless, we’ve modified and adjusted it to fit it into this do-it-at-home version.
Think of it as if you were getting certain skills, like bike-riding, that will help you in the future.
Try to find a quiet place, isolated from any noise that would distract you. In order to facilitate the relaxation, the temperature of the room should be comfortable-neither too hot, nor too cold- and illuminated by a dim light.
Find a comfortable outfit -not too tight. Take off glasses, bracelets, etc.
You can lie on a bed and spread a little your arms and legs. Or you can also sit on a comfortable couch, preferably with arms. Make sure you lean you neck, shoulders and back appropriately and comfortably.
May some disturbing thoughts come to your mind during the relaxation process, don’t try to fight them, but instead let them go.
Now close your eyes.
Take 5 deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and slowly letting your breath out through your mouth. Repeat this procedure five times.
After this deep breathing repetition, continue breathing in a slow and paused manner, but at a normal pace.
From now on, every time you breathe in, repeat the phrase “hold it” and every time you breathe out, repeat the word “easy”.
With this continuous repetition, the words will come out rhythmically, along with the rhythm of your breathing, and the relaxation becomes deeper and deeper.
The sense of well-being and profound calmness increases and develops itself…”hold it”…”easy”…
Continue in this manner a little longer. Keep your eyes closed, but following the rhythm of your breathing in and out, keep sounding out the words “hold it” and “easy”.
Now we’ll move on to another stage of relaxation.
Muscular tension and relaxation
We’ll try to pay attention to the feelings of muscular relaxation and tension.
Now tense forcefully all the muscles in your body. All the muscles will now become tight and tense.
Now tense forcefully the following muscles:
Let go of all the tension and relax completely. Feel the immediate well-being sensation. The tightening up is over, now we’ll move on to the next stage, at a much more profound level.
Think of a pleasant image, a scene created by yourself: a situation, a place. Anyone that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. For instance, a beach with the soft sound of the waves, or a forest…Take your time to find that ideal image. You will recall that image to relax anywhere else in the future. Let your mind wander through memories and scenes until you get “the one” you’re looking for.
Now picture that image clearly in your mind, while you repeat those two words, with every breath you take. Do both things at the same time and feel the double relaxing effect that it produces upon you.
Now move yourself into that image, feel inside it, surrounded by it, make it yours, and release all the tension.
Next, you must lie or sit still during a few minutes, and, very slowly open your consciousness back to the sounds of the room, to the feelings of your body, thus slowly coming back, without any sudden, jerky movement.
Progressive relaxation (by Jacobson, Bernstein and Borkovec)
As we earlier in this chapter pointed out, we consider that this techniques require a guided, supervised training, as in the doctor’s office. Said that, we’re going to introduce it for our visitors.
Table 1. Muscular groups matching the stages of the basic training proposed by Bernstein and Borkovec (1973)
Table 2. Groups of muscles matching the stages of the intermediate training proposed by Bernstein and Borkovec (1973).
Table 3. Groups of muscles matching the advanced training exposed by Bernstein and Borkovec (1973)
These authors also propose a series of alternative strategies for those patients that can’t do this kind of exercises or that have difficulties tightening their muscles through the procedures exposed. According to the authors, this training has three stages: In the first stage, the patient is taught relaxation upon 16 groups of muscles, followed by relaxation upon 7 groups of muscles, and finally the exercise focuses on 4 groups of muscles.