We have been pounding on the basics and focusing on the fundamentals at the seminars lately. And one of those basic fundamentals is RELAXATION. Some of you may know that relaxation is one of the three elements in the Formula for Transformation, and it is one of the three Cornerstones of Breath Mastery.
Anyone can relax. The question is how deeply can you relax? How quickly can you relax? How completely or how totally can you relax? And in the face of what situations can you relax? In the middle of what circumstances can you relax?
Relaxation Training is important because it’s not just a matter of being relaxed or not relaxed: there are levels of relaxation. And the fact is, no matter how relaxed you are, you can always relax more.
Anyone can relax when everything is right with the world, when everything is going your way, when the kids are happy and healthy, and there’s plenty of food in the fridge and money in the bank, and lots of time to enjoy it all. Relaxation comes easily and naturally then! In a way, one could ask: “What good is it then?”
What about when you are anxious, afraid, stressed, frazzled, confused or in pain? Can you relax then? What about when things get intense, or when nothing is going your way? Can you relax then? Because that’s when it really counts! That’s when you really need it. That’s when relaxation makes all the difference in the world.
Everyone carries a certain amount of tension in their body. And almost everyone I ask is able to tell me exactly where in their body they hold or carry their tension. The most popular places are the jaw, neck, shoulders, and lower back. And by the way, neck tension happens to be a very common cause of headaches.
Chronic tension is an energy sucker. It eats away at our life force. It takes up energy that could be used for healing and rejuvenation. And yet it can be like the hum of a refrigerator, or noise outside the office: we tend to block it out. Because it’s always there we stop noticing it. We no longer feel it. And that’s when tension can do the most damage!
Breath is the key to releasing tension. Something very unique and powerful happens when we combine conscious breathing with dynamic relaxation. If you can breathe, you can relax. If you can let go of your exhale, you can let go of tension. And with practice, you can also release pain!
Take in a breath right now. Feel yourself open and expand, and then let the exhale go with a sigh of relief. Exaggerate it. Make the exhale dramatic, theatrical. We are talking a Shakespearean sigh of relief!
Can you release the exhale without pushing it out, or blowing it out, or forcing the exhale in any way? Can you let it go? Can you release the exhale fully and freely, without holding any of it back, and without controlling it? Can you snap the exhale loose? Can you set your exhale free? That is the first step in the Art of Relaxation.
In order to release the exhale, you have to let go. And letting go is relaxation. And so, when you give yourself a conscious sigh of relief, you are relaxing! I meet many people who say they cannot relax. But anyone can relax for a moment. And that’s all it takes: relaxing for a moment. And that moment is the moment that you consciously release the exhale.
The problem is that, to the ego, relaxation is death! Deep inside many of us are holding on to fear or anger. Part of us refuses to let it go, and so we find ourselves in a Catch 22. Fear and anger cause tension, yet the ego justifies it and refuses to let it go. But thankfully, breathwork also releases fear and anger!
And the wonderful thing about tension is that it represents a bundle, a ball, or a knot of energy. And when we relax, the energy that is released can be used for healing and growth. Plus, the feeling of tension dissolving and energy flowing is very pleasurable. Relaxation can give us goose bumps.
We can tremble and shudder and shake as the tension dissolves and energy is released into the system. We experience tingling, buzzing sensations and electrical vibrations. It’s an extremely pleasurable experience, and yet because the feelings are so unusual, it can be scary.
Deep relaxation opens a door to an amazing amount of energy, and the real fun begins when we can breathe and relax into that energy, because the result is nothing short of ecstasy! And so, the problem becomes: “How much ecstasy can you tolerate!”
The more open and relaxed you are, and the fuller and freer you can breathe, the more energy will flow through your system, and the brighter and more alive you will feel. My guess is that if we could relax completely, we would turn into pure light!
Practice now. Give yourself about twenty minutes. Lay on the floor, or sit back in a comfortable chair that supports you completely. And begin to pull the inhales in and snap the exhales loose.
Give yourself the sense you are opening and expanding on the inhale, and letting go and relaxing on the exhale.
When you breathe in, focus on a place in your body where you know you hold tension, and direct the breath to this place. Imagine breathing into those places where tension lives. Imagine your body like ice cream melting in the sun. Imagine relaxing so much that the spaces between your cells open up so that the breath can get into all the cracks and crevices.
When you release the exhale with a sigh, release your muscles and joints at the same time. In the same instant that you snap the exhale loose and set it free, give your body to gravity and let your muscles and joints release.
You can focus on a different muscle or muscle group with each breath. Or you can focus on a different place with each breath: jaw, neck, shoulders, spine, belly, pelvis, hips, extremities, etc.
Take your time on the inhale. Do it consciously. And then release the exhale deliberately and as you do, let go and surrender to gravity. Do that again and again. Keep pulling in the breath in and then releasing it. Each time you release the breath, you release a bit of tension.
Get a smooth steady breathing rhythm going, and enjoy the feelings of energy. Relax into the tingling and vibrating sensations that sneak up on you as you relax more and more deeply.