Check in with yourself - the key to releasing tension in your brain and your body

Ever feel like you’re shoulders are tight? Do you get tension headaches? Maybe you need to just ‘check in’ occasionally. You might be a little like me, and walking around unconsciously tensing almost every muscle in your body. I’m reading a book at the moment, called ‘The Brain's Way of Healing’ by Norman Doidge, M.D. It’s a compelling insight into the way the brain works and the way the brain can heal, and how the body can heal by working with the brain.

One of the chapters talks about a method called Feldenkrais which is this amazingly fantastic practice that works with all sorts of conditions, from chronic pain to sport and performance and rehabilitation. Aside from all it’s incredible things that it can do, one of the ways in which it works is by teaching the patient to increase awareness of their movement. I’m not going to go right into it here, because there are fantastic resources both in Norman’s book and on the Feldenkrais website that you can check out for yourself, but what I want to talk about is this concept of awareness. Ever since I read those chapters in the book, I’ve been noticing more and more the way that I hold myself. As someone who has been prone to tension headaches, and more recently Fibromyalgia (which for me tends to mean my whole body is aching), I am actually astounding myself with how I’m ‘holding’ myself. I knew my posture was poor. I knew that I bring my shoulders up around my ears when I’m cold and when I’m stressed, but what I didn’t know is that I’m holding massive amounts of tension, even when I’m lying on the floor after a yoga session trying to ‘chill’. It’s like my body has forgotten how to relax. Now I find myself noticing where I’m holding the tension, and having to consciously tell my body to let it go.

Part of the Feldenkrais concept is being aware of this ‘whole’ body movement. That when you move your hand, or your eyes, or your foot, whatever part of your body, you’re actually making tiny movements throughout the rest of your body.

Something I noticed this morning while I was looking in the mirror, was that when I have a negative thought, there is tension in my neck. I can be standing there, completely relaxed (deliberately relaxing my whole face and neck), and then as soon as I have a negative thought, I can watch this little muscle or tendon or whatever it is there, switch on. Go on, have a go, I know you want to now.

I already know that negative thoughts can weaken you, but gee it was interesting to see just how one little (not even that bad) thought, can create tension. No wonder I have been sore.

So throughout the day these days, I’m starting to pay more attention. Every now and then, mid conversation or chore, or typing session, I am scanning my body for how I am holding myself (or my breath – I hold my breath when I’m doing so many things), where my shoulders are at, and where the tension is throughout my body, and then trying to consciously let some of that tension go. Realising more and more that I’m holding tension where it’s not needed, and I’m using way more energy than I need to to do what I’m doing.

This is exciting, because straight away I’m noticing the change. In the moment I release that tension, I am feeling a bit better instantly. I can stop crushing my lips together to concentrate, and allow my facial muscles to relax. I might even smile!

Check in with yourself. Check out the websites, and I HIGHLY recommend the Norman Doidge books. I’m only 60% through the one I’ve told you about and I can’t wait to go back to the bookshop and buy his first book as well.

If you do check in with yourself occasionally after reading this, and you notice anything, or realise that you’re doing the same thing, comment on this, I’d love to hear from you. I’m finding this journey highly fascinating and would love to hear what other people are discovering too.

Blessings to you all,

Michelle Cashman
Passionate storyteller, songwriter, writer and host of the Transformational Personal Growth Podcast on iTunes 
Inspire - Educate - Empower

The Brain’s Way of Healing, on sale now, extends the reach of neuroplastic treatments, to provide new hope for people who suffer from many kinds of chronic pain, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, attention deficit disorder, autism, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, learning disorders, sensory processing disorders, balance problems and provides information on how to reduce the risk of dementia by 60%. (Extract from