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Progressive relaxation


Disciplines Hypnotism > Techniques > Progressive relaxation

Method | Example | Discussion | See also



Get the person to relax one part of the body. Then get them to relax the next part and so on until the whole body is relaxed.

There are several sequences that may be used.

  • Top down: Start with the top of the head and work down the body.
  • Bottom up: Start with the feet and work up.
  • Inside out: Start with the abdomen, then work outwards to limbs and head.
  • Limbs: Start with the hands and arms, then add legs, then finally torso and head.
  • Spreading: Start from somewhere and just move to adjacent parts.

Relaxation can be induced by a number of methods:

  • Telling the person to relax the part of the body in question.
  • Telling the body part is getting heavy.
  • Suggesting the part become numb and unfeeling.
  • Using a metaphor, such as sinking.
  • Going inside the body and seeing the individual muscles untense.

Relaxation can also be induced by first tensing then relaxing each muscle group in turn.

When the person relaxes, there is often visible signs, both from the muscles in question and on the face, which overall becomes increasingly relaxed.


As you look at your left hand, you may notice that it can become more and more heavy and relaxed ... that's right ... and now the right hand ... now let that warm feeling creep up both arms ...


Progressive relaxation (sometimes just called 'PR') is a simple method to use and often gives good results. It gives the person something concrete on which to concentrate.

One of the problems of PR is that it can end up with the person falling asleep! Beware of this happening and wake them gently if it happens.

PR is also known as 'PMR' or Progressive Muscle Relaxation, and can be applied to all the muscles in your body, including those in unexpected places such as the face and the soles of the feet. Trying to relax these provides useful concentration for the subject who may thus be distracted from interfering thoughts. 

The hands are often a good starting point as they have many nerve endings (to give good sensory signals) and are under fine conscious control. In a reversal, the limited control of the feel means they will easily appear to be stable.

A reason for starting in the abdomen is that a lot of tension is often carried here and any relaxation is noticeable.

The head is very heavy and relaxing this also numbs the face and gives a strong sense of progress.

See also

Relax-repeat, Linking

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