You Can’t Relax If You Don’t Know Where You Hold Your Tension
Meditation, relaxation response or whatever name you want to give it, the basics are all the same and so is the starting point, which seems to be missing from every book I’ve read and every teacher I’ve listened to. Maybe it’s so obvious it gets overlooked.
Simply: you can’t relax if you don’t know where you hold your tension!
Some make fists, other grind their teeth; others collapse their chest. Some of us hold tension in our lower back, shoulders, abdominal muscles or legs. Still others stow it away inside and it surfaces later as ulcers, heart problems, high blood pressure or cancer. As you work through your meditation, if you haven’t located and worked on your tension area(s) first, by the time you get to your tension area(s) when meditating the other parts preceding them in your process have already begun to tense back up.
To find your tension you have to have privacy. Lying in bed is a good place to start. Go to bed early or if your partner is an early riser, make a date with yourself to stay in bed for fifteen or twenty extra minutes. Pick a day when nothing is pressing. With your eyes half closed, take eight to ten deep, relaxed breaths in through your nose and out through the nose or mouth, direct your gaze down your nose. Do a complete, thorough body check. If you’re uncomfortable, shift to another position. Starting at the bottom tell your feet to relax. See if you feel any difference. Then go to your legs and do the same. Continue with the hips and pelvis, abdomen both inside and surface muscles. Keep telling yourself either out loud or silently, what part you want to relax, direct your attention to that part. Which parts seem to feel the biggest difference? Keep a note pad if necessary.
Once you’ve located your area(s) of tension, concentrate on them. Breathe into the area(s). If it’s your jaw, for instance, visualize the breath coming in your nose as white healing light and going to your jaw while you tell yourself, “Jaw, relax.” Be gentle; give yourself time. You can’t force relaxation. If a distraction comes to mind gently put it aside and go back to your process. Continue breathing into the area and specifying what to relax. The most important part, the same as when meditating, is to deal with the mind chatter in an unattached and nonjudgmental way.
After concentrating on the areas where you know you hold your tension, and you’re comfortable with the procedure, go back to your feet and consciously relax them. Send your breath there and tell them, “Feet, relax.” Continue relaxing every part from bottom to top in the same manner. When you reach your tension area(s) do them again. Be careful not to add stress to your special points by injecting displeasure, rushing through or lingering on them. Don’t put any emphasis on them; just treat them like the others.
Once you know where you hold your tension, you can breathe into the area whenever you feel the need. Don’t make a big deal of it. Once your proficient, no one will be aware you’re involved in releasing your tension.
When you’re doing a no brainer activity, concentrate on your area of tension. Using visualization, try to isolate the tension from the area around it. Don’t attach any negative feelings to the tension. See the tension as a separate part, one that’s no longer needed. When you breathe out allow the tension to go with the breath. Visualize it dissipating into the atmosphere, mentally feel the release and relief. Don’t attach any feelings to the tension; just let it go.
If we look into any “fix” that doesn’t require our involvement we’ll almost always find unwanted side effects. There are times when we need the help of qualified health care providers but when we’re a part of the repair team, we get a lot more accomplished.
Research data as noted in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, has shown that meditating twice a day for twenty minutes neutralizes an enzyme attributed to aging and can help you stay younger and stronger, longer. The improvements didn’t begin to become apparent until after six weeks.
The release of tension is like any other learning process, you have to believe in it, faithfully practice it, and fine tune it to who you are.