Do you feel tense? Is your mind racing with thoughts? If you catch yourself feeling stressed during your day,
By noticing that our shoulders are hunched up and that our thoughts are driving this tension, we begin to break the cycle of stress. We can simply take a nice deep breath and feel the body relax. There should also be a brief cessation of thoughts, which is a satisfying relief.
Sometimes, I feel my muscles in my calves contracted or my neck and shoulders stiff from anticipation. I tend to hold my breath too when I’m stressed. The body’s natural reaction to a stressful situation is to tense up, but if we can consciously relax the body’s muscles and allow our breathing to flow naturally, we can learn to control our body.
A good practice is to feel each segment of the body from your toes, to the calves, thighs, hip, up to the lower and upper back and then to the shoulders and arms to the forearms, hands and fingers, and then to the neck and facial muscles. Try to feel each body part and notice any contracted muscles and try to relax them.
This is a great exercise when we are about to sleep, but even for daily tasks, such as driving in traffic or having a discussion with another person or giving a public speech. Giving attention to the body allows us to relax our nerves and muscles, and find peace no matter what circumstance we are in. It’s as if half our attention is in what we are doing and the other half is observing the sensations of the body. This allows us to not become lost in the situation.
This allows you to feel the difference between tension and relaxation, so that you can reside in a more relaxed state. Also, stretching is a great way to release tension as well.
Whether it be standing up for a couple of seconds and moving your joints or lying down to relax the spine, any break from being in a certain position for a long time will help down the road. Sometimes, we may think that we don’t have time for a break but when we are feeling pain later, we will lose more time doing things because of this physical stress that has accumulated.
I also recommend a foam roller. It is like your own personal masseuse. Rolling your back on it is such a great feeling and it really helps the back muscles relax, especially in the upper back. Doing yoga is another great way to know your body better and relax, as with meditation. There are many ways to relax but one of the most simple ways is to return to your body awareness.
Make it a habit to always check the body with your awareness and see if you are unnecessarily tense, then consciously relax any tense muscles and make sure you aren’t holding your breath.
Please also read my article "Stars of Origin" to enliven your awareness.