Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.
We can spend so much energy and time doing things we think we should, acting in ways which we think are expected of us that, I know from experience, we wind ourselves up into tension and anxiety.
To thine own self be true…
The key words here are ‘think’ and ‘should’.
We can think ourselves into all sorts of situations and attitudes and beliefs which aren’t good for us. And the word “should”, as I’ve said before, usually means we’re judging or being harsh on ourselves or others.
Think of a time when you felt you weren’t true to yourself. Can you understand why you acted this way? Were you conforming to perceived expectations of how you should act or speak? How did it feel – how you’re feeling as you think of the situation is probably a good sign of how you felt at the time.
For me, an example would be a time in the past when I sat in a meeting with my colleagues being insulted by our manager. I so wanted to speak out and say that is no way to talk to people, but I thought I shouldn’t because she was the manager and it could have repercussions. I felt really tense, anxious and unhappy. I hadn’t been true to myself. I can still remember the simmering rage and frustration I felt at the time.
Now think of a time when you acted in total accordance with your sense of who you are. How did you feel? How do you feel remembering it now?
For me, that would be teaching my first yoga class. If felt natural, I felt connected to a sense of who I truly am and what I want to do and be in the world. It was exciting, liberating and fun. Remembering it now, a smile has come to my face and I feel content and relaxed.
Your body and mind instinctively knows when you are truly being you: relaxed, tension-free, generous, compassionate and amazing!
Listen to your heart
If there’s a question you need to find an answer to, or you feel you need to get out of your head and connect with your true feelings or instinct on something, try this exercise, passed on to me from one of my wonderful Dru yoga teachers:
- Sit somewhere quiet where you can be undisturbed for 5 minutes or so.
- Take three or four deep breaths to settle yourself – close your eyes if this helps you to connect with your inner voice.
- Place your hand on your heart and focus on connecting to your heart energy – full of compassion, gentleness and understanding.
- Visualize an ear at your heart – ready to hear the voice of your true self.
- Ask yourself the question you’re looking for an answer to.
- Notice the first ideas, words or pictures which come to you – try not to think about and analyse what comes up.
- Take a few moments to connect with the answer you have given yourself – notice how you feel in your body, your breath, your emotions and mind.
- Take some more deep breaths, open your eyes and stand up.
- Continue on your day, letting the answer you have given yourself gradually sink in.
Your heart is a source of insight and clarity – but its voice can be drowned out by the thoughts clamouring for attention in our minds.
So sit and take notice of your heart once in a while and connect to your very own source of wisdom.
Take time to relax
Often we get so caught up in tension, anxiety and stress that we forget how being in any other state feels.
This is where yoga relaxation techniques can help.
Regularly practising conscious relaxation can start to retrain our bodies and minds to remember what feeling relaxed is like.
Even spending a few minutes each day sitting quietly and breathing, just focusing on your breath and nothing else, can help you to create space in your day just to sit and be.
Following a deep relaxation for 10-15 minutes regularly will have a deep effect on your sense of well-being. My relaxation guide gives you a step-by-step guide to the Dru deep relaxation technique. So, learn to let go and relax.
Let go of the tension created by trying to conform to your ideas of what others expect; listen to your heart; connect to your inner wisdom; and be the wonderful person you were born to be!
Stella Tomlinson teaches Dru yoga in Southampton, UK. Dru yoga is a flowing and therapeutic style of yoga, characterised by graceful movements, directed breathing, relaxation techniques and working with affirmations and visualisations. Connect with Stella via Facebook and Twitter.