I wanted to write about tension because I believe it is one of the most important contributors to musculoskeletal problems. Whether we are aware of it or not, many of us carry an immense amount of tension in different parts of our body at every moment, and this tension can lead to a chain reaction of compensatory imbalances and progressive blockages throughout the body.
What I discovered through my own experience is that unnecessary tension in the body is due to the mind reacting to a sensation. This sensation arises somewhere in the body when the mind decides that a particular stimulus (e.g. sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, thought, etc.) is pleasant or unpleasant. If the stimulus is decided to be pleasant, this accompanying sensation will also be pleasant. Similarly, if the stimulus is perceived to be unpleasant, the sensation will be unpleasant. The interesting part is that we create tension in the body if we try to hold on to a pleasant sensation or push away an unpleasant sensation. When this happens without awareness or control of the mind, and we don’t allow the mind to process and ‘let go’ of this reaction, this tension stays in the body, leading to imbalances that can affect multiple systems (e.g. nervous, vascular, lymphatic, etc.) and to altered neural communication to and from that region of the body.
I believe this is what I often hear referred to as muscular emotional memory, as often the memory of our reaction to the stimulus that originally led to this tension also remains. I also relate this to another phrase I’ve heard that ‘every tension in the body is a part of the person’s personality’, as what is believed about a stimulus is directly related to the need to protect the ego (e.g. the sound of a door banging means someone is angry with me). Whenever this same stimulus occurs, so does the same reaction, creating another layer of tension.
In my experience with using and receiving treatments, particularly with Emmett Technique and Spinal Alignment, a muscular release can sometimes be accompanied by an emotional memory release. For example, I recently treated a client who suffers from depression, and as I released the psoas muscle (an important postural muscle that tends to contract in fear responses to bring the body into foetal position) they told me that a familiar sadness arose and was felt in the abdominal area (interestingly, one of their symptoms was difficulty with digestion). Another client recalled a car accident and a childhood fall on different occasions when I released the levator scapula muscle (between the top side of the neck and top of the shoulder blade). In all instances, these memories did not re-traumatise them – their reactions were “that was interesting!” and they felt better afterwards.
Releasing these tensions and memories leads towards a restored emotional state, improved mental clarity and healing on multiple levels, and is one of the most satisfying results of my work.
TRY THIS: Close your eyes and pay attention to any sensation in your body and how your mind is reacting to it (i.e. your thoughts about it). Recognise that this reaction is your habitual response to it and not necessarily true to reality. Allow the sensation to be there (i.e. let go of any tension around it) and wait and see how long it lasts without reacting to it (mentally or physically!) or giving it a time limit. How do you feel now?