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You know how when you get really into something and you feel that it can solve every problem that exists? In other words, I have found a hammer and everything looks like a nail.

I was getting more intently into meditation and discovered that my inflexibility was limiting my practice so I bought a video by Kit Laughlin on how to stretch for meditation. The meditation fell by the wayside but I got more into stretching, following along with various videos by Kit. Then for a forgotten reason I watched an interview with Kit and only intending to watch a few minutes ended up watching over an hour of it. Which brings me to the hammer.

Kit mentioned fairly early on about how soft his muscles were despite being strong and this was due to his stretching as well as his relaxation meditations. He talked about his work aiming to bring his students to a more cat-like state. Very relaxed most of the time until the exact moment you need the strength then back to being totally relaxed. This sucked me right in as it corresponds with a lot of what I understand about the Feldenkrais method. To me, having an unneeded tension is stupid. It does nothing to help. It’s similar to how when my colleague was complaining about a set of stairs day after day when we would always have to climb those stairs for the job anyway. The complaining doesn’t make it easier but in fact makes it harder. Likewise unneeded tension is a waste of energy and chronic tension often results in RSI* and a corresponding psychological tension. A good example of useless tension is when people frown and stop breathing when concentrating. Absolutely useless unless the task is to frown and to stop breathing.

I’ve been doing Kit’s lying meditations daily for a couple of weeks now and they are just great. In one of them Kit asks to savour the delicious flavour of the sighs at the beginning of the meditation and often at the end of the meditation the flavour of the state of deep relaxation is delcious. The feeling of a relaxed and liberated breath in a sea of fluffy clouds is wonderous.

The meditations have been beneficial in the rest of my life too. I notice I have developed a habitual shoulder rising when walking outside, no doubt to look bigger/imposing/masculine/handsome. I notice this quite quickly now and I am able to relax my shoulders into a chilled, neutral walk. This is who I am and I walk like this, no need to cover it with armour.

I still get angry and frustrated from time to time at work but the instruction to “breathe and relax” and occasionally using sighs like the beginning of the meditations helps mitigate the anger and physiological response.

I’ve also been using the principles of the relaxation techniques along with Feldenkrais principles in my physical job. When carrying a load of stuff I notice if there are any unnecessary tensions and ask myself “is it possible to relax a bit in this situation?” These help to reduce the effort I use and are attempts to achieve equanimity in a difficult situation. One of the major things I learned from a Feldenkrais singing book is “realising intent without effort,” and the questions above are an invitation to not try so hard. I certainly need a great deal of strength in my job but each repetition is an opportunity to reduce the amount of effort I need in order to become more and more efficient so as to reduce injury and make the work easier to do. Breathing freely is a major part of this and if you can breath freely whilst doing something difficult that’s already half the job.

All this stuff of course applies to my improvised theatre classes. A lot of what we do to warm up (body scan, letting the floor support you, breathing into tension) is designed to reduce physical tension and enable us to deal with anxiety/nervousness/self-consciousness more skillfully when it appears.

I haven’t quite been able to apply it as effectively to my singing practice mostly because I’m not learned enough to distinguish the needed tensions versus the unneeded ones. Some of the tensions are obvious like the frowning and shoulder raising, but I believe my senstivity isn’t quite there in terms of in and around the throat area.

I wonder what other areas I can apply this too…

*Repetitive Strain Injury. Unfortunately prevalent amongst musicians. I have had it in the past from playing the piano and later from smartphone use.

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