Relaxation v. De-stressing.
You might think that relaxation is the same thing as de-stressing, but there’s a difference. De-stressing can use a variety of techniques that don’t necessarily involve relaxation of muscles.
How relaxed you are is a relative matter; perhaps there’s an ultimate, but it’s always in comparison to either how you were before, or to how someone else is.
How is ‘relax’ defined?
- The state of body and mind being free from tension and anxiety.
- A loosening or slackening.
- The lengthening of inactive muscle or muscle fibres.
- Returning to a state of equilibrium having been displaced from it.
- A form of mild ecstasy coming from the frontal lobe of the brain.
Other applicable words:
• Letting go
• Song 松 (Chin.)
You can always relax more.
It’s quite astonishing how much more you can relax your body. You think you’ve reached the full extent, and then someone rests their hands very softly and gently on, for example, your shoulders, and you find there’s more to go. I’ve seen it in the people I teach, and I’ve experienced it myself many times.
Why’s it so hard?
You have to become an observer to relax; to experience your body you have to ‘stand outside yourself’. That’s the relative or comparative part – you need perspective. In order to make this comparison, you produce a memory of when you felt more relaxed, which you then put alongside how you currently feel, and measure them against each other. This ‘standing outside yourself’ lasts for the briefest of moments.
You can only ever work within the field of your personal experience of relaxation – you can’t experience someone else’s sense of relaxation. It’s therefore what you might call ‘personally-comparative’; when relaxing, you are aiming to be more relaxed than you were a moment ago.
1) Make fist and squeeze it as tightly as you can. Let go of it and observe the sensation of release.
2) Change the perspective on your body. At this moment, whilst you reading this, you might think that you’re relaxed, but perhaps you’re only semi-relaxed. Try relaxing every inch of you from scalp to feet.
3) It doesn’t work for everyone, but for some people imagery can help, e.g. looking at a picture and imagining that you’re there. But even that must be based on memory. In this picture, if something disastrous had happened on the beach, you possibly wouldn’t feel so relaxed.
4) Think of your shoulder, imagining a finger very gently pushing into the muscles on the top. Try allowing that imaginary finger right in, so that you feel no discomfort. You might have felt a slackening or undoing in that shoulder.
5) When you breathe, the muscles in the chest, and also in the abdomen ideally, are compelled to stretch and then release. This is an all-body version of the finger-in-the-shoulder exercise above. In the above imagery exercise, you were stretching and then releasing one muscle; when breathing, hundreds of muscles are involved.
So you can use conscious breathing as a very useful tool for both muscular and mental relaxation.
At the end of the day, it all comes back to this.
James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and qigong in both London and in Kent. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan on one Saturday a month.
Phone: 07836-710281 or 020-8883 3308