RequirementsAn armless high back chair
Skills DevelopedCreating a bubble so that the only stimulus affecting your behavior and emotional state are those of the given circumstances of the scene.
Created ByLee Strasberg

Acting Principles

  1. Both Stanislavski and Strasberg believed that tension was the “occupational disease” of an actor; his/her greatest enemy.
  2. Tension occurs when we’re stressed, worried, anxious, nervous, or guarded and our muscles flex and tighten up.
  3. Not only is tension unnecessary to the actor’s work, but it’s harmful.
  4. The relaxation exercise is also necessary for the actor to get to a neutral state prior to performance.


The goal of this exercise is to help the actor develop the ability to relax any area of the body and mind at will. Strasberg’s Relaxation Exercise was developed to help the actor identify and release unwanted tension so that all motor activity is motivated by the given circumstances and emotional state of our character and not due to performance anxiety, stage fright, or other unwanted influences. Whenever we experience an emotion, the body contracts facial muscles. When we are under stress our neck, back, forearms, and hand muscles tighten. As actors, we must be in total control of our instrument, i.e. our body, at all times and when environmental factors such as cold or emotional factors such as stress affect us we must learn how to counteract these unwanted influences. Through consistent systematic and deliberate exploration, we can identify and release the tension in each muscle through an act of will, and over time we will develop unconscious competency and relaxation will happen automatically.


Phase 1

  1. Get into position: Sitting in a straight-backed, armless chair sit with your rear near the edge of the seat, legs should be bent at 90 degrees with the heels directly under the knees, your arms should dangle at your sides, your back will be slouched, and your head should be upright, eyes open, facing forward.
  2. Breath slowly through the nose and exhale slowly through the mouth. Continue you this throughout the excersize.
  3. Starting with your left foot, go through each body part listed below, up your left side and down your right, and then back again. You will create tension by flexing your muscles, and holding it for 3-5 seconds paying close attention to the physical sensation so that you will be sensitive to tension the way you are sensitive to heat and cold and then you will relax the muscles so that part of your body goes instantly limp. Your limb should immediately fall, you should not lower them, lowering requires tension and the purpose of this excersize is to learn how to relax, to have no tension as opposed to less tension.
Body PartMovement
Top of footCurl toes up.
Bottom of footCurl toes down.
Front of calfRaise your foot with the heel on ground.
Back of calfRaise your heel with toes on the ground.
HipRaise your leg with your knee bent at 90 degrees.
Front of thighExtend and straighten your leg so that it is parallel with the ground.
Back of thighPush into the floor with your foot while your leg is bent at 90 degrees.
StomachFlex your abs like you are being punched.
Chestextend your arm outward like you are pushing something away.
FingersWhile your arm is at your side, bend each finger into a tight ball.
Top of forearmCurl hand and fingers upward, like motioning someone to stop.
Bottom of forearmCurl hand and fingers downward, like a goose head.
Front of ArmBend your arm bringing your wrist towards your shoulder while your elbow points down.
Back of ArmStraighten your arm as far as it will go.
ShoulderLift your arm straight up into the air like you know the answer.
TrapsShrug your shoulder bringing it as close to your ear as you can.
NeckTilt your neck to the left, hold, then to the right, hold, then look up, hold, then look down, hold.
BrowMake exaggerated faces using only your brow. Sad brow, angry brow, happy brow, surprised brow.
NoseMake exaggerated faces using only your nose. Sad nose, angry nose, happy nose, surprised nose.
MouthMake exaggerated faces using only your mouth. Sad mouth, angry mouth, happy mouth, surprised mouth.
ThroatWhile vocalizing “Ahhh” like you’re at the dentist flex and hold your throat muscles so that the pitch changes.

Phase 2

  1. While maintaing the same seated postion in Phase 1. Relax every body part, your eyes will close, your head will fall forward, and your mouth may close. Breath slowly through the nose and exhale slowly through the mouth.
  2. Starting with your left foot, go through each body part as you did in Phase 1, but this time you will not move anything. You will simply check to see if you are feeling any tension if you sense tension mentally relax the muscles. Go up the left side, down the right, and back up and down.


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