Jacobson’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation Therapy

Edmund Jacobson was an American physician, psychiatrist and physiologist. In the early 1920’s, he began experimenting with ways to relieve anxiety by tensing and relaxing the muscles.

Muscle relaxation therapy

The results were published in his 1929 book, “Progressive Relaxation” which was subsequently edited for a mainstream audience and released under the title, “You Must Relax” in 1934.
Jacobson’s relaxation technique has since become known as ‘Jacobson’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation Therapy.’ It is very simple to do and extremely effective.

You don’t need a practitioner to learn the Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation therapy, although guidance is useful. And that is what we will show you in this article; from head to toe.

However, if you have a history of serious injury, suffer from muscle spasms or back problems, consult your GP before practicing muscle relaxation therapy. Deliberate muscle tension can exacerbate existing conditions. Also drink plenty of water to avoid cramp.
Whilst performing Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation therapy, it is important to focus on the sensations you feel as your muscles relax: this becomes part of your mental re-programming.

You can also perform an advanced procedure of progressive muscle relaxation therapy to include breathing and visualisation. For the purpose of this exercise, we will guide you how to breathe only.

What are the Health Benefits of Jacobson’s Progressive Relaxation Therapy?

Practising relaxation techniques can have a variety of health benefits including:

  • Relieve stress
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce the risk of seizures
  • Improve sleep

There is also evidence to support Jacobson’s muscle relaxation therapy can help people with epilepsy. However, if patients have psychological problems induced by stress, muscle relaxation techniques can also worsen epilepsy.

How to Perform Jacobson’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation Therapy

Each of the muscle exercises below involved tensing the muscle tightly for about 10 seconds, then releasing the muscle back to a relaxed position.

After each exercise, turn your awareness to the muscle and sense how the tension is draining from your body. You can perform the exercises sitting down, laying down or standing up.

Head and Face

  1. Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of five, and out for a count of seven. Maintain this breathing pattern throughout the exercise.
  1. Lift your eyebrows up towards the top of your head and hold the position. Release and notice the sensations of pressure dissolving in your head.
  1. Scrunch your eyes and nose together. Hold the position for 10 seconds then release.
  1. Open your mouth as wide as you can. Notice how the pressure is forced against our cheeks. Release and notice the tension drain from your face.

Neck and Shoulders

  1. Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of five, and out for a count of seven. Maintain this breathing pattern throughout the exercise.
  1. Tilt your head back so you feel the skin on your throat tighten. Press your head into your neck so you can feel pressure. Hold for 10 seconds and release.
  1. Pull your shoulders back and push your shoulder blades towards one another as though you are trying to get them to touch. Then release.
  1. Now, shrug your shoulders towards your ears and hold the posture for 10 seconds. Notice the tension draining from your neck and shoulders.

Hands and Arms

  1. Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of five, and out for a count of seven. Maintain this breathing pattern throughout the exercise.
  1. Squeeze your fists into a tight ball and hold for 10 seconds. Then release. Relax for several moments then repeat.
  1. On your next in breath, bring your right forearm up to your shoulder and tense your bicep. On the out breathe, relax your arm and notice the tension release. Repeat the move.
  1. Now repeat the exercise with your left arm, twice. Tense when you breathe in, relax when you breathe out.


  1. Take a deep breath in and hold. Then pull your stomach towards your spine. Hold the pose. Breathe out and take a moment to observe how your stomach feels.
  1. Push the breath outwards so that your stomach inflates like a balloon. Then relax and steady your breathing.
  1. Repeat this exercise twice more.

Buttocks and Legs

  1. Squeeze your buttocks together and tense your thighs. Hold the position for the count of 10. If the pain in your thighs begins to hurt before 10 you can release.
  1. Repeat the exercise and notice the sensations.

Feet and Calves

  1. Curl your toes upwards so that your calves tense. If you’re sitting down you will need to stretch your legs out in front of you. Hold for the count of 10, but release before if you feel a cramp anywhere.
  1. Curl your toes downwards and straighten your foot so that you feel a pull at your ankle. Release and notice the sensations in your feet.

Once you have performed the all over body relaxation therapy, take a moment to observe any areas that still feel a little tense.

If you feel the need to repeat any of the exercises, go ahead and do so. Otherwise, remain still for a while and enjoy the relaxed sensation that washes over you.

In your mind, repeat several times: I am calm and relaxed.

If you suffer from anxiety, tension or depression, I can teach you some powerful techniques that remove psychological blocks. Contact Master Mind Content today to arrange a session on Skype or Messenger.

  1. Michelle Henry 2 years ago

    Progressive muscle relaxation is so helpful. Thanks for sharing this post!

  2. richardjoldale 2 years ago

    You’re welcome Michelle, glad you enjoyed the article!

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