As I slowly feel what it’s like to have a body that’s relaxed and free, I’ve been thinking back to the early days of my journey. It’s been 27 years since I first started meditating and for the first five or six years, every time I had an hour to meditate I’d spend 10-20 minutes on pranayama to relax a little and/or 15-45 minutes moving my attention throughout my body trying to get my muscles to let go even a little so that I could be more comfortable as I meditated. Maybe 10 or 15 minutes of meditation followed.
That was back in the days when every muscle in my body was twisted so whether or not I felt mentally relaxed, my body was always tight and often painful. Any shifts in energy I felt from meditating or some other practice were more a general sense of change rather than anything I could actually feel in my body. Even at that level anything I could do to shift into a quieter space or a different energy came as such a relief that I was hooked.
Over the years my ability to hold a space of calm and serenity has grown even though the deepest level of muscles stayed taut. In the last few years my muscles are relaxed enough that finally I can settle into a meditation and just think “relax” or “my body is relaxed” and then sink into a space where I’m ready to meditate.
I’m going to do a few short posts exploring the impacts that the tight muscles have had on several aspects of the journey. I know that my case has been far more severe than most but I teach movement and I watch people move and I see a society in which people with stiff, tense bodies are everywhere. So I want to share my experience because, while I think my before and after may be more dramatic, a lot of people are affected more than they may realize by holding patterns of tension in their muscles.
It blows me away to realize the night and day difference between my ability to just sink into relaxation now and the arduous process of getting just a tiny bit less stiff when I began. For me that took untold hours of yoga, meditation and bodywork (among other things). For others I imagine it would take less, but if you have stiff hips or tense shoulders or a neck that won’t move, etc. it’s probably keeping you from feeling the full impact of relaxing into spirit, so it’s worth addressing.