Tension is something we all suffer from, because our way of life demands that we meet the expectations of others, or suffer the consequences. We are tense because we are anxious.
Relief from tension lies in the full experience of the present moment, not in the perpetual anxiety about whether the past impressions we made were good and whether we will shape up to the requirements and deadlines of the future – whether we will get a big enough slice of the cake.
There can be no hundred percent guarantees, so if we keep worrying about our future security, we will never get around to living in the present – we will scarcely be living at all.
The solution is to BE HERE NOW. Living fully in each moment, as it happens, we are closer to what we are doing, because our attention is not divided by anxiety. And we perform better. It’s not the work that lands us with ulcers, but the way we relate to it.
But it is one thing knowing the formula for relaxation and quite another to apply it, as the thriving trade in muscle relaxants, analgesics and tranquillisers bears out.
Modern life, work and even so-called entertainments make relaxation difficult. We have become ‘civilised’ to the point of having forgotten how to recharge our bodies during relaxation and rest.
Much of our energy is dissipated on needless physical and emotional tension. Unregulated emotions expend energy even more when there is no muscular movement. A few moments of anger can eat up more energy than a day of physical labour.
When we are angry or otherwise tensed up, our breathing becomes irregular, our hearts beat faster, our blood pressure rises. Every emotional upsurge takes its toll on our bodies. No tonic or diet on earth can restore the damage, or solve the problem that gave rise to the emotion.
Freedom from tensions of all sorts is a very big part of what we are aiming for in Yoga.
Before doing the yoga postures we should try to empty ourselves of mental, physical and emotional tension, concentrating on what we are doing in the moment. While performing a posture we should observe and be aware of our muscles, knowing which of them should be tensed by the posture and gently relaxing all of those which should not be tensed.
The benefits of all yoga postures are based on this principle.
In daily life we should cultivate the poise of the cat; graceful and relaxed yet ready for instant action. The cat knows instinctively the secret of deep relaxation and conserving life force, but seldom fails when action is called for.
Our instincts have been blunted. There is much to unlearn and it will take time and application to get there.
Breathing in through the nose, kneel down and sit your buttocks in between your feet. Keep your knees apart and then, breathing out steadily, bend backwards and grasp your heels or your ankles.
Allowing your head to hang back and breathing deeply and evenly, hold the posture for a few seconds. On an exhalation lift your buttocks off your heels and thrust your pelvic region forward and tighten your buttocks. Breathe gently and hold this posture for a few seconds.
Come out of the posture on an exhalation, making sure that your head is still hanging backwards. Sit between your heels, roll your head erect and breathe gently for a few moments. Then repeat the posture three or four times. As you become proficient in performing this pose you can increase its intensity by keeping your knees together and sitting on your heels.
The camel not only stretches the tops of your thighs, pelvic region, chest cavity, shoulders and arms but also firms your buttocks and strengthens your lower back. The adrenal glands are squeezed while the head is nourished with an extra supply of blood. This enables those who become depleted from emotional tension to receive an extra boost of energy.