The Anatomy of Tension
by J. Donald Walters
(excerpted from the book: Ananda
Yoga for Higher Awareness)
It is impossible to develop
true Self-awareness without first learning how to relax . . . The science
of yoga might even be defined as a process of progressive relaxation . .
To withdraw one’s mind from worldly attachment
is . . . no easy task. . . Even when the mind tries consciously to
withdraw from outward distractions, subconscious habit patterns may
continue to direct the energy on its customary outward course, tensing the
body, putting "knots" in the nerves, imprisoning the energy in the muscles
and nerve channels.
Desire for outward activity causes tension.
This tension is especially noticeable in the legs and arms. The tendons
above the feet, the front part of the calves and thighs, contract
automatically with the impulse to be "up and doing." The arms, the front
part of the armpits, the fingers (especially the little fingers and the
thumbs and forefingers, where important nerves have their endings) - here,
too, tension reflects any inner need to "swing" into action.
The desire for activity originates in the
mind, but, like the steady increase of sound that occurs in "feedback"
between loudspeaker and a microphone, tension augments that initial
desire. . . When a person is completely relaxed, it is easy to sit still
(in meditation) even for hours at a time.
Yogananda . . . explained that, for physical relaxation, one must
first become conscious of existing tension. . . He taught that to develop
this consciousness one must first increase that tension deliberately.
Tense the whole body. When fully conscious of this tension, release it
completely; become altogether limp and motionless.
Sasamgasana, the Hare Pose, does this
by stretching, then relaxing, the shoulders, arms, and between the
shoulder blades. . . it helps to free the mind of the suggestion, through
feedback, that one should be continuously busy doing things.
Because it is refreshing to the brain,
Sasamgasana helps to banish mental fatigue. It is a good pose to
practice before meditation."