A body full of energy should be our natural state of being. We should feel wonderful and alive every waking moment. The process of deep breathing provides us with a continuous exchange of energy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work as well as it should. On a purely physical level, the human body was designed to be active, yet most of the things we do in an average day require very little physical effort. In fact, we often spend most of our days doing work that does not exercise the physical body at all. The result is that any unused energy that we have built up within the body gets transformed into muscle tension. This type of physical tension is often the source of the myriad aches, pains, twinges and worse, which we begin to experience as we grow older. These can easily turn into chronic illnesses that often become overwhelming.
During our daily life tension is gathered and deposited in various places throughout the body. For some people it may be the neck, shoulders, or lower back. In others it may be in the knee joints or feet. Still others may find it affects them internally, in their gastrointestinal tract, for instance. This tension can be quite debilitating. Left unaddressed, it can easily make you feel as if the weight of the world is on your shoulders pushing you down. It is impossible to relax because the body just plain hurts. Physical tension is a difficult barrier, however, until you can release it and reduced the physical pain and discomfort, it is very difficult to generate new energy.
Releasing this build up of tension is done through teaching the body to surrender its weight to the pull of gravity. It is a process of learning to unclench and unwind the musculature and open the energetic pathways in the body so there is a smooth flow. It is learning to let go.
Tension Release Practice
There are a number of techniques for releasing tension. The simplest and quickest involves the use of the Yin/Yang concept by contrasting tension with relaxation. In this process you push the body to experience an excess of tension so that when balanced by an equally full experience of relaxing allows the body to return to a state of balance and serenity. The contrast produces a relaxation that is more pronounced, identifiable and deeper. The key to this practice, as with most vital practices, is deep breathing.
This exercise is best practiced in bed at night before you go to sleep. You should be lying flat on your back with your legs straight and your feet flopped apart. Close your eyes and take a few natural breaths as you allow your body to settle down. Imagine that each breath allows you to sink deeper into the bed. When you are ready, inhale deeply into your abdomen. Fill up your belly, then your ribcage, and finally, your chest. You want to feel as if you are expanded completely as you fill up. Stop and hold your breath in. Next curl your toes and squeeze your feet as tightly as possible. Hold the squeeze for a moment and then exhale as you release, allowing the air and tension to flow out of you.
Take a couple of natural breaths if necessary and then begin again. Inhale into the belly, ribcage and chest. Feel the fullness as you hold your breath. This time, after you curl your toes and squeeze your feet, squeeze your calf muscles, thigh muscles and buttocks. Tense all of your muscles from your hips down to your toes, so that the whole lower half of your body is tight and rigid. Hold the squeeze for a moment and then release it as you exhale. Let go of all the muscles. Allow yourself to uncoil and unwind as you release, relax and let go.
Again, take a couple of natural breaths. As you breathe in, feel as if you are filling up from the lowest points of your body as the oxygen-rich blood courses through the clear passages of your legs. When you are ready, begin again. Inhale; expand your belly, ribcage and chest. Hold your breath as you squeeze your toes, feet, calves, thighs and buttocks. Next begin to tighten the muscles of your stomach and back. Squeeze your ribcage and the muscles around shoulders and under your armpits. Hold the squeeze for a moment and then release it as you exhale. Let go of all the muscles. Allow everything to uncoil and unwind as you release, relax and let go.
One more time, begin again. Take a couple of natural breaths to allow the energy to flow through you. Then inhale, expand your belly, ribcage and chest. Hold your breath as you squeeze your toes, feet, calves, thighs, buttocks, tummy, ribcage, chest and under your arms. Next, make fists with your hands and squeeze them. Tighten the muscles of your arms, shoulders and neck. Grit your teeth and make your whole body rigid. Hold the squeeze for a moment and then release it as you exhale long and slow. Let go of everything and feel as if you are sinking into the bed. Sink down as you breath deeply and let go.
As you lie there, continue to breathe and see if you can begin to feel the energy flowing throughout your body. The contrast between the extreme tension and the resulting relaxation should be very pronounced and give your body a warm, energized feeling.
This exercise will help to break through the hard shell of tension that has encased you. It is something that can be practiced at any time, even sitting in a chair at work. It only takes a few moments, but the benefits can last for hours.
Once the tension has been released our breathing naturally becomes deeper and less strained. This is the time to take a deeper breath and help to circulate more energy through your body. Each deep breath you take helps to assist that energy flow through your body to all the places that need it.
Generation of energy always starts with the breathing. If we can learn to incorporate deep breathing practice into our daily life, we find we have reserves of energy we were never aware of. If provides us with a valuable tool to help us face the challenges that appear before us.
I know that I said I would be addressing spending quality time in nature in this post, but because of the weather, I've been outside most of the time. I will be getting to the subject shortly.
Wishing you much peace.