I have always found pleasure in moving my body, Sara. I feel at my best when I am doing something physical on a regular basis. And it’s not just that my body is healthier and stronger, I also feel better mentally.
I was really into karate before my twin boys were born. I stopped when I got hugely pregnant. I missed it a lot and after they were born, I went back. But it was too soon and I ended up tearing a ligament in my knee. Not being able to practice karate drove me crazy. I needed to do something. That’s how I found my way to yoga and back to sanity!
I often joke that yoga is my therapy. Practicing yoga postures makes me feel good. Strong, relaxed, able to breathe. When my body is free of tension, I am free to live life more fully.
Tension in your body
When you are stressed, your muscles tense up. This muscle tension is almost reflexive. It is the body’s way of protecting against injury and pain. This can be helpful short term.
When you are chronically stressed, the muscles in your body are in a constant state of alert. This is not helpful! Tense muscles over a prolonged period of time can cause all kinds of disorders. For example, tensionheadaches are related to tightness in the shoulders, head and neck area.
What causes tension?
According to yogis, every tension has a cause. Tension can originate from all kinds of things including relationships, family, anger, sugar, excesses or exhaustion. Any of these stressors can lead to body tension.
Muscle and tissue tension can block the flow of energy, lymph fluid, blood and hormones. These blockages can lead to disease and weakness in other parts of the body. It’s a breakdown in your system and it has a ripple effect.
How to deal with body tension
I just read a great article by Tom Myers. He talks about the relationship of the mind, body and stress. We tend to think that we need to fix the mind to relieve stress and prevent tension. But it works the other way as well. Reduce the stress in your body and you can reduce the stress in your mind.
Myers gives a great example. Think about the posture of someone who is depressed – shoulders rounded forward, chest sunken in, chin down. Just imagine how this posture affects breathing and confidence. A change in your physical demeanour can have profound effects on your mental outlook and emotional wellbeing. What would happen if the depressed person improved their posture? Walked around with head up, shoulders back, chest puffed out?
Change the body, you change the person.
By practicing yoga postures, you are changing your body. But if you have practiced for any length of time you know there are also profound effects on your mental and emotional wellbeing.
I recently read, “When you let go of tension, you make room for change to happen.” This makes a lot of sense to me. A tight body and mind are by nature closed and resistant to change. Allow your body to open and your mind becomes less rigid as well.
Some of my favourite yoga postures for relieving tension:
Neck and Shoulders
- Sleeping Pigeon
Spine and low back
- Wide leg forward bend with a twist
- Supported Bridge
What are your go-to postures for relieving tension? Let me know in the comments below!
Image courtesy of Augusto Mia Battaglia