Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive relaxation is a technique for learning to control the state of tension in ones muscles. It was developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the early 1920s. Jacobson did not ever fully understand how by shutting down ones responses to external and internal stimulants one could not only reduce anxiety, but actually reduce such problems as skin allergies and rashes. It is not at all clear how shutting down our physical responses can be so effective in curing various disorders.
Dr Jacobson wrote several books on the subject of Progressive Relaxation. The technique involves learning when each specific muscle group in the body is tense by tensing that muscle group and then letting it go. One has to learn the difference between ones own tensing and and an external stress. These learning sessions are NOT exercises, nor are they self-hypnotism.
A modification of the technique is "Biofeedback" in which one uses external measuring devices to indicate how successful one is in relaxing and then to use those techniques to relax without the help of external measuring devices.
In the training sessions which are started in a darkened room with the learner in a reclined position and eyes closed. The learner is told to relax, just let go. If the learner has any thoughts or physical distractions, just relax. Do not try to solve the problem. In each session the teacher reviews tensing one particular muscle group. If the student is slow in learning how to let the tension go for a particular muscle group, that group is focused on in the next session. The learner is told to continue to practice the relaxation technique in their daily lives. It is not our natural response to relax when there is an external or internal stimulant. However, as in many other physical conditions that we have no control over, the bodies best response would be: no response at all.
Jacobson trained his patients to voluntarily relax the muscles in their body when ever they are not being used to perform a particular task. He found that the relaxation procedure is effective against a number of ailments including ulcers, insomnia, and hypertension.