Rosen’s Mindfulness Minute No. 3

Many of us deal with stress. Commonly that stress can cause tightness in certain muscle groups, especially in our neck and shoulders. Another common issue that we may see with stress is insomnia. And sleep is important.



Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a technique that was first described by Dr. Edmond Jacobson in the early 1900’s. PMR is a sequential squeezing or firing of certain muscle groups followed by relaxation. Usually it works in a toe to head or head to toe manner.

The following is a short PMR routine that you can follow:

Find a comfortable seated position or alternatively you can lie down. Obviously if you are using this to help fall asleep you will be lying down in your bed. Take a few slow deep breaths and pay attention to your mind as it relaxes. Focus on your body and where you might be feeling tension. As you breathe, notice everything starting to slow down.

Starting at your feet point your toes and feet down as if you were standing on your tip-toes. Engage your calf muscles. Hold this while you breathe in. As you exhale, relax those calf muscles completely. You may notice the muscle shake or tremble when you tense each muscle. A shaking muscle is okay but it should not cause pain. If any muscle group is very tense you can repeat this step multiple times on your way up the body.



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Next pull your toes and ankles up. Think toes to the nose. Engage the muscles in front of the shin as you breathe in and hold. Relax the ankles completely as you breathe out. Feel the lower leg relax.

Imagine you are trying to hold a magazine between your legs and squeeze them together tightly. Hold as tight as you comfortably can while you breathe in. Then relax as you breathe out.

Now squeeze your buttocks tightly and hold on the in-breath. Then relax as you breathe out.

As we come up the body, bring your attention to the abdomen and pelvic area. Squeeze your stomach muscles and engage the belly. Hold this on the in breath and then when you are ready to exhale, relax. 

Next focus on the arms. Make tight fists, as tight as you comfortably can, and hold the breath. Then exhale and let the hands completely open and relax.

As your attention moves up your arms, bend the arms at the elbow and fire your bicep (the Popeye muscle) tightly as you breathe in. Hold for a few seconds then exhale as you let the arms relax and straighten back at your sides.



Take your shoulders and pull them up. Shrug your shoulders upwards trying to touch them to your ears on an inbreath. Hold and then exhale as you let your shoulders fall away.

Bring your focus up to the face and open your mouth as wide as you can and hold. Then relax and let it gently close.

Shut and squeeze your eyes tightly on the next in-breath and keep them closed. Then open them as you breathe out.

Raise your eyebrows up, wrinkling your forehead. Hold on an in-breath. Then relax.

Take a few more natural breaths and see how you feel. Scan your body and see if any tension remains. You can cycle back to any area that may need a few more repetitions. Allow yourself to relax in the moment.

Adam Rosen, DO

Adam Rosen, DO

An orthopedic surgeon with a focus on mindfulness meditation practices and patient/physician wellness and education.

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Mindfulness Minute No. 3 – Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Adam Rosen, DO teaches Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), a technique that can help with muscle tightness secondary to stress as well as a tool for those that suffer from insomnia.

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