Muscle Tension And Tension Relief

When you were young children you were virtually tension free, you moved easily and effortlessly with poise and grace and you knew how to express your emotions so you did not hold on to any pent up tension and negative emotions.

But as we grow up, life becomes much harder, we tend to try and suppress or fight with our emotions or we bottle things up, and over the years, we pick up many bad postural habits related to our bad experiences and bad postural habits.

As we begin to react badly and negatively to things and events in our environment and society, we lose our natural poise and balance and we replace it with more and more tension habits which prevents our free and movement from being carried out naturally, smoothly and gracefully.

Gravity is always trying to pull us down or forwards, and as many people try to adapt or cope with their working conditions, environmental factors, their daily tasks and even some of their leisure activities, they find that life tends to pull them down and forwards.

Some people start off as a child with poise and balance, but soon they can take on and mimic the bad posture of their elders.

If you're not careful, bit by bit you can lose your natural poise and balance and many people end up slouching and hunching and rounding their shoulders, which results in tension and feelings of discomfort and irritability.

When you lose your natural poise and alignment, then some of your muscles will shorten and collapse whilst others will tense and become overstretched, which will not only leave you feeling uncomfortable, but you will also struggle to sit and stand.

This will lead to fatigue, low energy and stiffness, and it can have a negative impact on your mood and confidence.

Ideally you should sit, stand and move freely with the least amount of tension, where you should be at your full natural expansion, without stiffening and without making any physical effort to hold yourself up.

When you are in your natural poise and alignment, then your bones will hold you up and your postural muscles will ease and relax, so you have the minimum amount of tension to hold you up.

Some people try to correct or get out of their tense postures to what they think is good posture, where they lift up their chest or pull themselves up by their head only to find that they make things worse and they end up with chronic muscles stiffness and tension.

Any attempt to try and physically hold yourself up unnaturally will usually make things worse, and you will lose your flexibility and replace it with stiffness.

Messing about with your posture or even trying to correct your posture when you do not know what you're doing or listening to bad advice is a recipe for disaster and more tension.

Others will try to sit and stand too tall or too straight, and again when you exceed your natural height you will soon end up with tense and stiff muscles, so they return back to a state of collapse and out of alignment.

Emotions and tension

But it is not just our poor postural habits that cause muscle tension, our emotions can play a significant part as well.

Increased levels of stress, anger and anxiety can cause our body to tense and they can throw our posture out of balance and alignment.

The secret to feeling happy, poised and at ease, is to bring your mind and body into balance and harmony

Our mind, body and emotions are all one whole and they can all affect each other both positively and negatively..

If one of these comes out of balance then it will have a negative effect on you and how you feel.

Fear and anxiety, can also lead to feelings of discomfort in the body. 

Our natural response to danger, is to go into one of the fight, flight or freeze postures. 

This is where you either stick out your chest, pull back your shoulders and you lift your head up  as if you're ready for confrontation.

Or you shorten in stature, you push your head forwards, hunch your shoulders, tense your body and you pull your the back of your head down, which cause stiffening of the neck.

When you allow your head to protrude forwards and the back of your head to be pulled down, then as your body shortens, this can affect your breathing and cause the release of adrenaline into your blood stream.

After a while these bad habits can become habitual and automatic, some people can even become permanently stuck in the fight or flight response reflex mode, which can be potentially harmful in the long term.

Our thought processes are also directly linked to our physiology and muscles, so if your muscles are tense or you have shortened in stature, then this can cause more tense thoughts and thoughts of insecurity.

Tension is your worst enemy

Tension in your mind and body will be the single biggest enemy that you will have to face and when it is left to accumulate in your mind and body, then it can lead to all sorts of problems and generally leave you feeling very uncomfortable and irritable.

When we are aligned and balanced both emotionally and physically, then we will be in our most natural, powerful and efficient state of being.

Because of the mind and body link, tension in the mind can lead to tension in the body and tension in the body can result in tension in the mind. 

Our bodies can hold onto tension, especially around the upper back, shoulders and neck as well as the lower back and stomach region and when your body and muscles are tense, you will tend to have more tense types of thoughts.

Tension in the body can be the result of too much stress and negative emotion, but an even bigger contributor is poor and out of aligned body postures and movements, as well as lack of exercise and living a sedentary lifestyle or overdoing things and rushing.

Any sort of tension in your mind or body will block off your creativity, interfere with your ability to think straight and it will seriously get in the way of your happiness and prevent you from returning to your natural and balanced state of being.

Releasing tension will make you feel better, it can help to lift your mood and it will make you more efficient and improve your performance levels.

Many of us use unnecessary amounts of force and tension than we actually need, these can soon form our tension habits.

Ideally you want to apply the least amount of tension as possible, so you move and do things easily, effortlessly and smoothly.

 

Emotions stress and tension 

Because of the mind and body connection, there is a direct link between our mental focus, our emotions and our physiology, including 

  • Our posture 
  • Our muscles 
  • Our breathing 
  • Adrenaline 
  • Heart beat

The thing to be aware of with negative emotions is, so long as you do not fight them, fuel them or resist them, the unpleasant feelings will not remain very long.

If you begin to notice the onset of negative emotions like fear and anxiety to no real genuine threat, then just detach yourself from the unpleasant feelings and allow the emotions to move up through your body and away, unchallenged.

If you start to get angry, stop and pause for a minute, count to ten, take some slow, deep breaths, so you can stop the strong urge to react, whilst you compose yourself and deal with the situation in a calm and assertive manner.

There are three two key area's that you will need to work on if you want to be free of tension in both your mind and body, which are your posture, your physiology and your emotions.

Emotional intelligence and simply being  mindful to when your emotional state is changing and knowing what's causing your negative emotions and what you need to do to shift back to a calm and happy state.

Exercise combined with regular relaxation will help you deal with the physical symptoms of stress and negative emotions, but the long term cure for stress is, stress management.

Another negative emotion that causes tightening of the muscles and tension in the mind and body is anxiety which is basically a form of fear.

If you suffer with too much fear and anxiety, then it will help you to learn how to manage your anxiety.

Adopt a balanced and aligned body posture 

To deal with the tension in the body, whether that be neck tension, shoulder tension or tight muscles the first place to start is to make sure your posture is aligned and balanced, try and perform good smooth body mechanics as much as possible. 

You should aim to sit and stand with the least amount of strain and tension as possible, it's all about finding that neutral and natural point of balance and alignment, where all your joints are free.

Your body posture is the key to being tension free and the good thing with having an aligned and balanced posture is, because you will have released the tension in your body you will have less trouble with stress, anxiety and negative emotions.

A lot of people have picked up some bad postural habits where they are either slouching at their computer, or they have slipped in a lean back posture, 

When they attempt to correct it to what they believe is good posture they overdo things and lift up their chest and arch their backs which causes chronic muscle stiffness and tension in the mind and body.

You should allow your bones to support you, not your muscles, avoid slouching and compressing your body as well as leaning back or overextending your body, don't force, strain or tense your body, your body should be relaxed as possible. 

Stand and sit upright and relaxed, so your spine is stacked up straight as such, but you still maintain the spine's natural curvature.

Never try to physically hold, lift up your chest unless you're slouching, pull or push up your body, throw your head back, lean forward too far or force your body into position. 

When you're seated, although you should not slouch, neither should you try to sit up straight, let your seat support all of your weight. 

Sit on your sit bones and allow the chair to support the weight of your up body and head. Even though you should be upright, aligned and balanced all your joints should be free, flexible and relaxed

When your body is out of alignment, it will become tense and your breathing will become shallow. Learning how to breathe properly will also help you to reduce tension. 

Once you relax your body and your posture is balanced and aligned your breathing will become more freely rhythmic and natural.

Standing with poise, balance and alignment

Your body should be stacked upright like a column, so your neck supports your head and your upper body is supported by your legs and feet.

As we all know, when anything that should be stacked up straight becomes uneven and out of balance then it will putt more tension on the column until at some point if it becomes too uneven and it will topple over.

Many people are out of balance and alignment, where they are standing in a zig zag type of posture which will force the muscles to tighten to compensate for the out of aligned body.

When you bring yourself back into alignment, your muscles will begin to soften as your bones start to hold you up and support you.

When your body becomes out of alignment with gravity, then this will soon start to cause a lot of tension in your body as this will put an extra load and strain on your body and to compensate for the out of aligned body, 

Your muscles will start having to support you and do the works that is primarily designed for your bones to do.

Try to avoid sitting or standing for long periods fixed in one position, you can alternate from your normal standing posture, to having your one foot slightly more forward than the other, if you're sitting for long periods, get up and move about regularly.

Our body is primarily designed for moving about, so try and keep active, and move about as much as possible.

Our posture plays a significant and an important role in how we feel emotionally and our general health and well-being, yet many people still fight against their natural poise and posture.

The head and its relationship with the spine is often overlooked, if the head back of the head is pulled down or the head and neck are bent forwards then this can cause the spine to collapse.

The head leads the spine which affects how we sit, stand and move, and therefore if you want to eliminate tension, then the correct coordination of the head and spine is vital to maintain poise, good balance so the whole body works together smoothly and effectively.

The head, on average ways approximately 9 to 11 pounds, so it need to rest freely on top of the spine, if the head is held forwards or back then this will put a lot of strain and tension on the neck and the upper back.

If you imagine where the top of your spine joins your head, which is roughly at the point between your ears, and at this axis point, the head weight should be slightly greater at the front

Then the head should gently tilt forwards a few millimeters and up, so your nose drops down slightly, without dropping your neck forwards, which will release some of the stiffness and tension in your neck as it will allow your neck to become free.

It will also help to keep you up and in balance, when the head is held too far forwards or too far back in relationship to the body, then it is virtually impossible to stand in balance and free of tension.

You should not tuck in your chin, the head should be allowed to roll forwards only very slightly so it stays in this position through gravity and not force or tension.

The Alexander Technique states to think your neck to be free and your head to go forwards and up, and they suggest no physical effort is needed because when we try to physically release our head forwards and up, we apply too much force. 

The head should rest freely on top of the spine, if you pull the back of your head down at the bottom of the neck then this will cause contraction of the muscles.

If you bend your neck and head forwards, then again this will cause the muscles to contract and tighten.

Although the head cannot be maintained fixed in this position permanently, try and have your neck free and your head slightly forwards as much as possible.

The hips are also important, usually if your neck is free and your head is gently released forwards and up, then the rest of your body will fall into alignment.

Some people have their hips pushed too far forward whilst others have them pushed too far back, either way will throw your body out of balance and it will put a lot of extra load and strain on your muscles.

Avoid any stiffening of your legs and locking your knees and ankles, ideally all your joints should be free.

Standing correctly and efficiently, should involve the coordination of the whole body group of postural muscles.

If you over tense and stiffen some muscles and shorten others, then this will have a negative effect on how well you stand as it will result in the overstreching and lengthening of some muscles and the collapsing of others.

A way of describing how you stand could be put like, you should be at your full height and expansion, but all your joints should be free, so you still have all your flexibility and free movement.

To eliminate tension, all your postural muscles should be working together efficiently and in smooth coordination.

Your shoulders should be over your hips and your hips should be over your ankles so you weight is evenly distributed.

At the bottom of your feet, there are three weight bearing pressure points.

One is at the center of your heels, one is just behind your big toe and the other is behind your little toe.

These three points form a triangle and your weight should travel down your legs, through your ankles and then it should spread evenly over these three weight bearing points.

Avoid standing with your hips pushed too far forwards, the weight of your body should be more over your ankles than your toes, the knees should be soft, and pointing forwards and away.

Trying to stand in one position for a long period can cause tiredness and tension, you can try alternating from your normal standing position, to having one foot slightly lunged forwards.

Avoid locking the knees and ankles, and do not stiffen the legs, avoid leaning forwards or too far back, and try not to arch your back.

Learning how to sit and stand with the least amount of tension can be a life changing experience and your body will thank you for it.

It can be very hard to explain about your posture through words so I suggest that you watch the video on how to sit and stand tension free by Brett Hershey who is a qualified Alexander Technique instructor.



Before you can correct your posture, you will need to know, what type of posture you are, which can vary from leaning too far forwards, too far back, or too stiff and rigid, to name a few. 

Many people have rounded shoulders and hunched forwards, and we all know we should not slouch, but equally it is just as bad and it will cause chronic muscle stiffness, if you lift up your chest or over extend your spine.

The two videos will show you how to get out of tense and uncomfortable postures. The above one, demonstrates how to get out of a lean back position, where the hips are pushed too far forward, and the legs are slanted. 

The video below will show you, how to correct it, when your butt is too far back and you're leaning too far forwards.

When you align yourself up, it should be done with a minimal amount of effort, do not force or strain yourself or hold yourself in position. 

When you're correctly aligned and balanced, there will be know need to hold yourself up, just allow your bones to hold you up and support you, and let your body relax and hang neutrally. 

 

Although the whole of your body should be aligned and balanced many people have developed bad postural habits where their shoulders are rounded, their head is protruding forwards and their neck is tense.

If you have developed round shoulders, then a good quality upper body posture brace can help you to naturally correct this, do not attempt to physically correct your posture, it has to be done through alignment exercises, as demonstrated in the video above.

If you have developed structural problems, such as rounded and hunched shoulders or forward head posture, then you will need to perform some special posture correction exercises. 

If you're not sure, go and see a chiropractioneer.

A magnesium deficiency can increase tension

Magnesium has been classed as one of the most powerful minerals to help you reduce stress and tension, and not only can too much stress and tension decrease your magnesium and other important nutrients, but a deficiency can also add to your stress and tension.

For a long time now many experts have known about the relaxation and calming benefits of magnesium and how it can help to combat stress and anxiety.

Many people are deficient in magnesium and they are unaware of how  a deficiency in magnesium can affect them both physically and emotionally.

Magnesium is one of natures anti-dotes to stress and it can help to relax you and aid your body to work more efficiently.

Stress, anxiety, mood swings, and tension in the body could indicate that you may have a magnesium deficiency, and it can help to relax your muscles.

The recommended daily dosage for adults is approximately, 400mg per day, this is less for children,(check with your doctor if unsure). 

Depending on your situation and condition, you may need to up that, again always consult with a medical professional. 

If you want to learn more about this powerful relaxation mineral watch the video below by Dr Mark Hyman MD.



Good food sources of magnesium foods include 

  • Dark leafy greens, especially spinach
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts, especially almonds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Fish
  • Black beans
  • Avocados,
  • Bananas
  • Dried fruit 
  • Dark chocolate 
  • Yogurt or Kefir

Use yoga and other age old traditions to relax the body 

Yoga is another way of relieving tension, yoga can calm that racing mind and relax a tense and restless body, but be careful not to stretch stiff muscles that are already overstrecthed. 

Yoga is basically a series of exercises that can make the body become more flexible and it can center and calm the mind which will take its attention away from the worries and stress brought about from our perceptions and the outside stimuli and circumstances.

By practicing certain techniques of yoga you can relieve tension and reset your emotional and mental state to one of calm and balance, where you will experience more joy and contentment. Find everything you need for yoga exercise and relaxation, including your own personal yoga instructor!

Free your body from tension 

We all need to find techniques and methods to relieve tension, when you're free of tension you feel more balanced and at peace, by relieving tension you will return to the feeling of floating on air, you will feel more balanced with a much deeper sense of calm and at ease.

Exercise is another good way of releasing your tension and stress, obviously the best ways are not to get stressed or tense in the first place, ditch the car or public transport whenever possible and either walk or push bike. 

Going for a nice relaxing walk, especially in the country or in a park and just observe and take in all the natural beauty of nature.

If you have many things to do, then don't try and do everything in one go, make a list and prioritize them in order of importance, avoid causing emotional and physical overwhelm, do one thing at a time do not overload yourself by thinking too far ahead otherwise that will cause emotional overwhelm and stress.

If you have a big goal or schedule to complete, break things down into small, easier manageable  steps, take one day at a time, by all means keep an eye on your big goal, but don't keep planning to far in advance until you have completed what you're working on at the moment. 

If your mind is bombarded with new idea's and things you want to do, write them down in a notebook and as you finish each one cross them off one at a time and move onto the next.

How to relieve tension in the neck, shoulders and body

It is important to use our body to help us reduce tension, our eyes have been designed to move, by not using our eyes, we can cause neck tension, merely by resorting to use your eyes more can free up your neck. 

Tension in the neck can be a result of twisting your head to look left or right and up and down. 

The eyes have been designed to move in any direction so use them accordingly where possible, many people drop their heads down when they are reading or operating a computer which adds to neck tension problems.

Another area which holds tension is our shoulders, you should neither pull your shoulders to far back or have them rounded forward, you should not try and hold them unnaturally either.

Your shoulders should be in their natural sockets but you should never force them back, they should be relaxed as part of a good posture, if there not then you will need to align the rest of your body. 

We also hold a lot of tension in our hands, let those hands relax and widen and let your tension go.

 

Use Progressive Muscle Relaxation To Relieve Tension

Progressive muscle relaxation can help you to relieve tension, it is a technique that can relax your mind and body by doing a series of exercises, what you do is you progressively tense and then relax your muscle in a specific sequence. 

Once learned, this can be used any time during the day to relax your muscles and become free of tension, it also works to help you unwind and fall to sleep more easily at night time. 


What you need to do is you first have to quite vigorously tense each set of muscles for about five to seven seconds, then you suddenly release the tension so you get into the habit of experiencing the muscles relax at will. 

While you are performing these muscle relieving exercises, try to also focus on your breathing and take some slow deep breaths.

Make yourself comfortable, you can stand, sit or do these techniques laying down, focus your attention on your body, take a slow deep breath and focus on the first muscle group. You can start from the head or the feet,

1. Start with your forehead, raise your eyebrows as high as you can hold for about 7 seconds, and then quickly release the tension abruptly.

2. Next, tighten up your eye muscles by squinting your eyelids tightly shut., again hold for 7 seconds then let go

3. Next tense your mouth, you can do this by to an exaggerated, forced smile for 7, make it as wide as you can, hold then rapidly release 

4. Move down to your neck, tilt back your head gently, so you are looking up, hold for the count of 7 and release, feel your neck relax 

5. Shift to your hands, clench your fists tightly, hold for 7 and let go

6. Clench your biceps, tense them like the body builders do, feel the muscle become tense, hold for 7 and release  

7. Now do your triceps, you can do this by extending your arms fully out as far as you can, hold for 7 and release, feel the tension melt away.

8.   Turn to your shoulders, do a shoulder shrug, lift your shoulders up towards your ears. Hold for about 7 seconds, and quickly release the tension

9.    Move to your upper back, tense your upper back by pulling your shoulders back, try and pull your shoulder blades as close together as you can.

10.  Tense your chest, you can do this by taking a deep inward breath, hold again for 7 seconds, then release Next muscle group is the stomach, pull in your stomach, hold for 7 and release 

11. Work on your lower back, arch the back, hold for 7 and release 

12. You can then do your buttocks, clench your buttocks, hold for 7 seconds let go of the tension

13. Tighten your thighs, you can do this by pressing your calf’s and thighs together, imagine you are trying to crack a walnut between your back of your thighs and the back of your calves

14. Now flex your feet, pull your toes towards you and feeling the tension in the back of your calf muscles. Hold for about 7 seconds, and release.    

15. Last move to your toes; curl your toes under your feet. Hold for about 7 seconds and relax

 

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