“An anxious mind cannot exist in a relaxed body”
~ Dr Edmund Jacobson
Dr. Edmund Jacobson (a medical doctor) invented the technique, Jacobson’s Relaxation, in 1929 stemming from his belief that relaxing specific muscles in sequence could relax the mind as well. This is a reciprocal inhibition technique which as described by Joseph Wolpe (a South African psychiatrist who was highly influential in Behaviorist theory), purports that two incompatible feelings or responses cannot be felt simultaneously (Wolpe, 1968). With this principle in mind, anxiety is inhibited when physical or muscular tension is reduced. Not as easy as simply telling ourselves to relax (that pretty much won’t work). Rather it is using the Jacobson’s technique to ‘learn to relax intentionally and with full awareness, then you can deal with your everyday problems or illnesses of modern life in a much better way’.
What is Jacobson’s relaxation?
Jacobson’s relaxation technique or progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a stress relief technique that uses muscle contraction and relaxation to make you feel calmer. By concentrating on specific areas, tensing and then relaxing them, you can become more aware of your body (self-awareness) and the physical sensations that accompany tension in your body—this helps you identify what tension feels like in your body and to pinpoint where you store tension. In the same right, you become aware of how it feels to release tension from muscle sites in your body—training you to (actively and intentionally) release your tension. With this comes relaxation on both a physical and psychological level.
With Jacobson’s it is important to keep in mind the progressive nature of this relaxation technique, what this means is that the relaxation has a cumulative effect—the further you go into the technique the stronger the relaxation becomes. Also with this progressive nature, you first need to train your brain in the technique and become familiar with the process. You might find that in the second or third session, you reach a much deeper level of relaxation and at a quicker rate—your mind and body retain the process, making it easier to identify your tension and you can then focus on the tense areas faster and release them more easily.
So what are the benefits?
Practicing relaxation techniques in general can have a variety of health benefits, including:
- Relieving anxiety,
- Reducing or managing stress,
- Lowering blood pressure,
- Improving sleep.
Progressive relaxation is safe and can be continued on your own once you are familiar with the exercises. This is a beautiful technique for you to practice, the more you train your body with Jacobson’s the quicker and greater the benefit. The aim is assisting you in gaining self-awareness through providing a tool that you can use to manage your stress and release your own tension.