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How to disengage to truly relax

June 8, 2016

I used to wonder how my Sensei could tell if we were relaxing correctly while doing our form work and breathing work in class.  He would be across the room and know by looking. I have since learned this.

It is obvious from seeing hunched shoulders, stiff wrists, crimped fingers, locked joints and on and on.

The students say when told to relax: “I am” or  “I am trying” or  “I thought I was”.  Relaxing is not an easy thing to do.  It is simple to say “relax your shoulders and let them drop”.  The problem is the subjectivity of the term.

  • What is relaxed?
  • What is softness?
  • When is it enough?

Many people overthink the process. They get so engaged in the process of trying to relax that they create and hold tension without realizing it.

The last few weeks I have started using the term disengage.

What do I mean by this?

  • when you overthink relaxing you are actively engaging the muscles.  Let your mind focus on the feeling and not the process
  • practice feeling the connecting joints disengage and soften. You will feel the muscles on either side give way.  For example, Lock your elbow, the slowly let it unlock and feel both the muscles in your shoulder, upper arm, forearm and wrist relax and soften.  Try doing this with each joint.  Especially your neck and upper back.  As they relax you should feel them “sag” and lengthen.
  • after the muscles and joints relax, the nerves will start to relax. You may feel some twitching as this happens as energy begins to flow from being blocked
  • finally your blood, which carries energy will flow smoother.
  • By the way, maintain slow and steady breathing throughout the process and don’t rush through it.
  • You may want to start only with your hand and fingers to get a feel for the process.  It will take time to learn how to sink into relaxing, but it is worth the time.
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