It is well documented that stress negatively affects one’s body and one’s health. With the continuation of the Covid-19 crisis, and its accompanying uncertainty and separation from family and physical care providers, many of us are in more need than ever of techniques to reduce stress and anxiety.

Bob Alonzi, a master practitioner of rolfing, has a keen appreciation for treating the whole person. During his 30 years of learning and practicing, he has embraced a holistic approach to the mind-body connection. From his holistic perspective, Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a valuable physical technique to help alleviate anxiety, particularly while touch therapies remain inappropriate and unsafe.

PMR can be implemented inconspicuously in any situation and location, in public or at home. The technique is equally effective whether you are sitting, standing, or lying down. For those of you who have difficulty going directly to sleep at bedtime, PMR is a great way to shut off the “voices in your head,” allowing you to relax and drift to sleep.

The method is as follows – assume a comfortable position, preferably either sitting or lying down. PMR can be done standing, but is generally less comfortable.

  1. Clench the muscles of the right foot, slowly counting to six. Muscles should be fully clenched at six. Release them slowly, counting from six down to zero. The muscles should be fully relaxed at zero. Repeat with the muscles of the lower right leg. Then with the muscles of the upper right leg.
  2. Repeat with the left foot and leg.
  3. To the count of six, slowly clench and release, counting down to zero, first the buttocks, then the stomach, then the chest, and finally the upper back.
  4. To the count of six, tighten your right hand into a fist and release slowly counting down to zero. To the count of six, clench and release first your right forearm, then your right upper arm.
  5. Repeat with the left hand and arm.
  6. To the count of six, slowly tighten the muscles of the neck and lower jaw. Gradually release counting down to zero.
  7. To the count of six, gradually tighten the face muscles and slowly release counting down to zero.

Practice PMR once or twice daily to master the technique. From your first experience you should notice a reduction in your anxiety level, an increased sense of physical well-being, and a renewed feeling of calm and equilibrium.

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