Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fundamentals of Relaxation Part 1

In this 8 part series , we are going to explore the fundamentals of relaxation, how each type works, the benefits and a little history.  We humans do not relax enough – we believe that sleeping or watching television is relaxation….nothing could be farther from the truth.  And it is so important to both mother and baby during pregnancy!

"Tension is part and parcel of what we call the mind. Tension does not exist by itself, but is reflexively integrated into the total organism. The patterns in our muscles vary from moment to moment, constituting in part the modus operandi of our thinking and engage muscles variously all over our body, just as do our grossly visible movements. If a patient imagines he is rowing a boat, we see rhythmic patterns from the arms, shoulders, back and legs as he engages in this act of imagination. The movements…are miniscule".
~ Edmond Jacobson, 1927

Progressive Relaxation

The deep muscle relaxation technique of progressive relaxation was developed by Edmond Jacobson PhD, MD  around  1910.  Jacobson believed that our bodies responded to anxious thoughts and events with muscle tension.  Tension in those muscles increased the feeling of anxiety (much like the Fear-Tension-Pain Cycle).  Deep muscle relaxation reduces physiologic tension, lowers blood pressure and pulse, and produces a general sense of calm.  Researchers have noted that progressive relaxation is effective in treating general anxiety, insomnia, depression, fatigue, hypertension, and
some phobias.  It has been an integral part of prepared childbirth methods since the 1950s.  It is also part of some Yoga methods.

With the publication of The Technic of Progressive Relaxation in 1924, Jacobson gave the world an answer to rising stress. His method is quite simple.  And there are many pre-written scripts available for you to use in your practice.  Below are just a few:

This beautiful handout is from Hartford Hospital in Connecticut Click here
From Baylor Univesity in Texas: click here.
From Australia: click here.
Try this one from the University of Houston at Clear Lake in Texas:  click here.

Sample this Relaxation Meditation yourself.  For some, it can be difficult to teach a technique if they have not experienced it themselves.


  1. DiPietro, J. Et al. (2008) Fetal responses to induced maternal relaxation during pregnancy. Biological Psychology.  January 77(1): 11-19
  2. Field, T. et al. (2004) Massage therapy effects on depressed pregnant women. Journal  of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology. June 25(2): 115-22.
  3. Fink, NS. Et al. (2011) Fetal response to abbreviated relaxation techniques. A randomized controlled study.  Early Human Development. 87(2):121-7.
  4. Janke, J. (1999) The effect of relaxation therapy on preterm labor outcomes.  Journal  of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Neonatal Nursing. May –June 28(3): 255-63.
  5. Lothian, J. (2011) Lamaze breathing: What every pregnant woman needs to know. Journal of Perinatal Education.  Spring 20(2):118-20.
  6. Lothian J. A., DeVries C. (2010) The official Lamaze guide: Giving birth with confidence.2nd ed. Minnetonka,MN: Meadowbrook Press.
  7. Smith, C. et al. (2007) A randomized comparative trial of yoga and relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety.  Complementary Theories in Medicine. June 15(2) 77-83.
  8. Smith, C.A. et al. (2011) Relaxation techniques for pain management in labor.  Cochrane Summary Review retrieved 6/26/13

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