I recently had an interesting conversation with two of our neighbors as we ran into each other on the beach. Our dogs are friends and we walked together. It was a lovely and spontaneous exchange of experiential knowledge. The topic was releasing tension from the body.
They have explored releasing tension through body work, acupuncture and eventually arrived at energetic release through touch. We talked about the build up in fascia and muscles resulting in limited movement of the joints and how miraculously the energy healing can reduce this very tangible physical tension.
In Yoga we speak of the different layers of our Being; physical, energetic, mental and further the layer of the bliss body and the individual soul.
We hold patterns of tension and it shows up on all of these levels. In the body, it can be habitual tensing of the jaw or shoulders. We hold patterns of tension in our breathing, not exhaling enough or holding the breath. On an energetic level, the flow of the energy slows down or becomes stagnant in certain areas of our body. On the mental level, the tension shows up as rigid thinking, ceaseless ruminations and resentments, feeling stuck or irritated. All of these are examples of contracting rather than opening.
The Taittiriya Upanishad was the first ancient text to discuss these different layers (koshas) of our body and became a module for healing in contemporary Yoga Therapy. Vedanta tells us these layers are interconnected and part of one Self.
We can cultivate the ability to let go. As we let go and release tension on one level, all the layers of our Being respond. We can feel the sense of ease and joy and connect with intuition, the whisper of our soul. We start to feel the soul purpose, the big reason why we are here. It allows us to align with the truest expression of who we are.
My favorite practice has been working with the breath and truly letting my breath have the freedom to move. The ancient practice of ajapa japa using the So-Hum mantra has been helping my breath to recover from habitual patterns of tension. Essentially, this mantra means, “I am That”—I am pure awareness or consciousness. I can feel the energy awakening in my body by having an increased sensation in different parts of my body and a sense of openness. Cultivation of mindfulness has allowed me to have the ability to recognise these subtle shifts in my body and furthered my ability to let go.
Mindfulness, Sati, described as 'bare attention' and Dharana, “one-pointed attention”, both teach us how to focus our attention on the present and experience life in more depth.
Meditation has been such a big part of my life and yet the mental work alone is not enough. We know that trauma lives in the body and that one cannot think oneself out of anxiety. The body needs to be a part of the healing process and releasing tension is a big step in healing.
It was so nice to explore this topic with someone who doesn’t know that yoga is a complex array of practices but only as a physical exercise where one is following a certain set of postures.