Sore muscles, but too busy to get a massage? Try progressive muscle relaxation therapy or PMRT. Despite its unwieldy name, it is really simple: you alternate between tensing and relaxing different muscle groups. It’s as calming as squeezing a stress ball, and also teaches you to be aware of unconscious tension. Doing this regularly can also help you stay relaxed yet alert throughout the day.
Retreat to a quiet place with comfortable room temperature. Choose any chair that will let you lean back and put your feet flat on the floor. Loosen tight clothing and slip off shoes.
Tense each muscle for 10 seconds, then let go if it suddenly. Pause for 15 seconds to become aware of the difference between the feeling of tension and relaxation.
Squeeze your face like you’ve just drunk a glass of strong vinegar! Make a grimace, squeeze your eyelids shut, clench your teeth. Stay in this position, and slowly inhale, counting from 1 to 8. Then exhale, and completely relax—as if you’ve fallen asleep.
Neck and shoulders
Hunch your neck and shoulders. Imagine someone tickled your neck and you squeezed in reaction. Once again, inhale over 8 counts, exhale, and relax.
Chest and abdomen
Pull in your tummy, as if you were doing a tight crunch (or trying to fit into a pair of jeans that are two sizes too small). Inhale over 8 counts, exhale, and relax.
Squeeze in your arms, pulling your elbows closer to your body. Imagine how you would feel if you were pushing your car uphill. Inhale over 8 counts, exhale, and relax.
Make a tight, tight fist. You should feel your fingers digging into your palm. The tension should climb up your forearm. Inhale over 8 counts, exhale, and relax.
Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze them in! You’ll be working your pelvic muscles (if you’re familiar with Kegels, this is the same move). Inhale over 8 counts, exhale, and relax.
Squeeze your leg muscles. You may feel your toes lifting, leaving just the tips of your ankles on the floor. This exercise feels really great after wearing heels the whole day. Inhale over 8 counts, exhale, and relax.
Lean forward, and (while staying seated) tiptoe, putting your weight on your foot. Push forward as far as you can. Inhale over 8 counts, exhale, and relax.
Photo from guardian.co.uk