November’s Theme: Stress Management with This Week’s Focus on Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Thanks to Kathleen Rae Theilhelm (Bejart Ballet Lausanne) for last week’s Conversation Sunday – Behind the Scenes Interview.  Click HERE to take a look!  I’m also stoked to publish this coming Conversation Sunday Post – An interview with founders, Julia Erickson and Aaron Ingley, of Barre – A real food.  I’m taken aback by their talent, dedication, and mission to make a dancer’s world healthier.  It’s a must read!

Continuing along with November’s Movement Wednesday Stress Management Theme, I will discuss yet another technique that I find enticing and above all, quite helpful for dancers. With Nutcracker approaching, it’s a good time to utilize our limited downtime to rest and relieve any unneeded stress and/or anxiety.  It is important to mention that the stress management techniques discussed in detail this month may not appeal to all individual’s needs and personalities.  Instead, the intention is to serve as an educational tool/reference, reminder and/or motivator.

The time to relax is when you don't have time for it. ~ Jim Goodwin and Sydney J. Harris.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) was first designed by a Chicago Physician Edmund Jacobson, with the intention to ease tension of patients heading into surgery. Therefore, Jacobson taught his patients to first consciously contract a small muscle group (hand) and then gradually release the contraction to achieve a relaxed state. This process was repeated for all the muscle groups of the entire body. Over time, this method has been proven to be an applicable way to achieve desired relaxation of skeletal muscles, the mind and internal organs.  Over seven decades of collecting data in order to evaluate the effectiveness of PMR, this method has proven efficacy in reducing tension and stress.

Compared to last week’s exercise on Yogic or Pranayama breathing, PMR takes a bit more time, commitment and energy.  However for dancers, the amount of strenuous demands we place on our entire musculoskeletal system is enormous, making this technique fully worth the effort.

PMR Exercise: 

Preparation: Find a quiet place with no interruptions for 30 minutes.  Lying-down in supine position with arms placed along the body and eyes closed is proven most effective.

Step 1: Relaxation of the Arms (6 minutes)

  • Clench the left fist
  • Feel the tightness in the muscles of the left hand
  • Now, let go
  • Feel the relaxation in the muscles of the left hand
  • Repeat for right fist
  • Bend the left arm at the elbow
  • Feel the tightness in the muscles of the left arm
  • Now, let go
  • Feel the relaxation in the muscles of the left arm
  • Repeat for the right elbow
  • Repeat sequence for both arms together
Step 2: Relaxation of the legs (7 minutes)
  • Bend the left foot upward
  • Feel the tightness in the muscles of the left foot
  • Now, let go
  • Feel the relaxation in the muscles of the left foot
  • Bend the left foot downward
  • Feel the tightness in the muscles of the left foot
  • Now, let go
  • Feel the relaxation in the muscles of the left foot
  • Now repeat sequence for bending the right foot upward, followed by repeating the downward sequence
  • Bend the left leg at the knee and tighten
  • Feel the tightness in the muscles of left leg and thigh
  • Now, let go
  • Feel the relaxation in the muscles of the left leg and thigh
  • Repeat sequence for right leg at knee
  • Bend both knees together, and repeat the same sequence using both legs together
Step 3: Relaxation of the face (5 minutes)
  • Place wrinkles on the forehead by lifting the eyebrows
  • Feel the tightness in the muscles of the forehead
  • Now, let go
  • Feel the relaxation in the muscles of the forehead
  • Frown by drooping the eyebrows and repeat the sequence
  • Close both eyes tightly shut and repeat the same sequence
  • Clench the jaw and repeat the same sequence
  • Purse the lips tightly and repeat the same sequence
Step 4: Relaxation of the Neck and Shoulders (6 minutes)
  • Bend the neck gently forward
  • Feel the tightness in the muscles of the neck
  • Now, let go
  • Feel the relaxation in the muscles of the neck
  • Bend the neck gently backwards and repeat the sequence
  • Bend the neck gently to the right and repeat the sequence
  • Bend the neck gently to the left and repeat the sequence
  • Shrug the left shoulder to touch the earlobe and repeat the sequence
  • Shrug the right shoulder to touch the earlobe and repeat the sequence
Step 5:  Relaxation of the trunk (2 minutes)
  • Inhale deeply to tighten the chest muscles
  • Feel the tightness in the muscles of the chest
  • Now, let go
  • Feel the relaxation in the muscles of the chest
  • Exhale with force to tighten the abdominal muscles
  • Feel the tightness in the muscles of the abdomen
  • Now, let go
  • Feel the relaxation in the muscles of the abdomen
Step 6:  Relaxation of the Whole Body (4 minutes) 
  • Give yourself autosuggestions for each muscle group that you have worked on.  For example it may be helpful to say,”My feet are relaxed, my ankles are relaxed, my legs are relaxed, etc.”  Basically you want to tie all of your work together to conclude the exercise.
Thanks to all my readers and subscribers for all of your support so far.  If interested, you may subscribe to dancehealthier at the right hand side of the homepage.  You will only be e-mailed when new posts are published.  Dancehealthier also has a facebook page.  To check it out, click HERE!  Feel free to make a comment or contact me via e-mail at dancehealthier@gmail.com.
Reference:

Sharma, M., & Romas, J. A. (2007). Practical Stress Management, A Comprehensive        Workbook for Managign Change and Promoting Health – 4th Ed. Pearson Education, Inc.

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