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Relaxation is the key.

Relaxation is the key.
 
We all encounter stress in our busy lives. It can come at us from all sides and once this feeling gets into our bodies, our minds, our spirit, it is hard to uproot it.
 
And even our choice of words to describe it - "uproot" as an example - can add to the tension, the sense of grasping and aggressively resisting the things that bring us stress.
 
In my own life, whatever ability I have to cope with stress/tension and to release unneeded pain comes from my daily meditation practice. In Zen Buddhism the Japanese word for meditation is "Zazen" (seated Zen), and we generally refer to the practice of zazen as sitting. One of the most surprising (to me) observations to come out of my sitting is the extent to which I carry muscular tension that I rarely even notice in my daily life.  
 
This awareness generally comes to me after 20-30 minutes of sitting. I will start to feel muscles and joints release and shift, and there will come actual audible "cracks" in various areas of my body. This will be accompanied by improvements in posture - that I didn't realize was cramped and slumped. Suddenly I sit up and find myself 2-3 inches taller and with a straight spine that is much more comfortable.
 
There are other methods of noticing tension and releasing it. Some are more active: Pilates Tai Chi, Yoga), and some less so (progressive muscle relaxation, Fascial Stretch Therapy, a hot bath).
 
The point here though is that we have to feel it before we release it, then we have to let it go.
 
I recently returned to my Kung Fu practice (Wing Chun) after some years away from the more formal training found in my teacher's school. My teacher (Sifu Russel Cichon, of Albany, NY) was welcoming and he seemed impressed with my skills. He commented on my technique and seemed to attribute it to a new level of relaxation in my movement. I, in turn, explain it as coming from my Pilates and zazen practice.
 
He then put it all in perspective by thoroughly critiquing my overly tense muscles and forward leaning posture. Over and over again he stopped me and corrected my stiff movement and poor posture. Then he stepped in and we sparred and ran drills together. He showed no effort that I could discern, just intense focus. He moved me around the room just like the old days, hit me at will, showed me in a visceral way what it means to relax.
 
So what does it mean to relax? It means moving at high speed - or slow - or not at all. It means not allowing tension in by not fighting it. It means what I sarcastically call "lazy man's" kung fu because there's no need to attack force with more force, thus creating more force, more work, more tension.
 
So when you come to Walking Tall Fitness I encourage you to work out, but it's more like "play out", "feel out", "release out". Because you can be intense, breathe hard, sweat and push - but you can do it in a way that includes ease and joy (to paraphrase an old Buddhist master). Don't make it a struggle. Make it feel good - because it does. You just need to discover it for yourself.
 
 

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