Passive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a relaxation technique that uses the power of the mind to decrease the physiological response to stress. It combines deep breathing with an exercise of imagining different muscles and limbs throughout the body releasing tension. This produces a “relaxation response,” which can help reverse some of the physical and emotional reactions we experience in stressful situations (think shortness of breath, sweaty palms, and a racing heartbeat). Research shows that stimulating a relaxation response has a wide range of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety, and promoting an overall sense of well-being.
The Department of Integrative Health Programs at NYU Langone created a 5-minute guided meditation for the DeStress Monday campaign that can help you start the week feeling calm and relaxed. You can use this technique throughout the week when stressful situations arise.
Can’t listen to the meditation? Try this:
- Start in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and let distracting sounds, thoughts, and sensations around you drift off to the back of your mind or float away like a cloud.
- Take a few deep breaths and breathe out tension and stress and breathe in relaxation.
- Allow the sensation of relaxation into your body, starting with the muscles in your head followed by your forehead, eyelids, nose, and cheeks.
- Next, one by one bring the focus to your chest, shoulders, and down your arms – imagining it all relaxing.
- Then, bring this calming feeling to your torso, belly, hips, lower back, and legs.
Feel the relaxation travel throughout your whole body, from your head to your toes, letting all of your tension fade away into a sea of calmness.