Joy Ignites Success

Combining Breath and Sensation to Relieve Stress

By - Saturday, July 20, 2013

One of the natural responses of the body to stress is a contraction or tightening of muscles.  When feeling pressured by others or outside circumstances, we pull in to ourselves to get away from the external.  This strategy makes sense in theory, but in practice, it results in feeling like there is no space to be.  Which results in being easier to push around.  I often have my clients feel this by having them stand and just think about wanting to get away.  They naturally contract and pull in.  Then I give them a gentle push (with their permission, of course), and they inevitably lose their balance.  When I ask them to let go of the resistance and the contraction and try with the same force to push them, they easily stand their ground, or flow back easily.  

Catching the contraction takes practice and awareness.  First, simply set an intention to notice how often this happens.  Whether there are many demands on your time, someone is verbally attacking you, or the roof is falling in; just notice the tendency of the body to contract.  Then, as you start catching this sooner, just start adding a breath and imagine opening and dropping down into the body.  If you think you don’t know how to do this, remind yourself that it is what you do every night in order to fall asleep.  As you breathe and open, pay attention to sensation: how your breath feels moving in and out of the body, the air on your arms, tightness in your neck or shoulders.  And just keep imagining that you are opening inside, creating room for yourself.

We also have a tendency to contract around internal discomfort.  The contraction goes hand in hand with resistance; almost if the contraction could shut down the pain.  Again, the strategy seems to make sense to the mind, but in practice, it holds the pain in.  Is that really what you want to do?  It can initially be pretty frightening to let go of resisting pain; you may need to practice on a mild headache or slight pain in the back.  If you remember that sensation is stuck energy and that you are keeping it stuck by contracting around it, you might be more willing to give it a try.  When you open to the pain, you are giving it space to move.  And contrary to what the mind believes, when the pain begins to move it does not get bigger, it loosens and begins to dissolve.  Take a moment and try this for yourself. What do you notice?

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About MSI

Melanie Smithson Institute is dedicated to enriching lives through embodied education and training; using movement, play and releasing to connect with innate wisdom and joy.  

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