It’s very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. Not only does it help prevent the onset of many illnesses that develop through chronic tension and worrying; it allows us to clear our minds, focus, and find creative solutions to problems. – Thich Nhat Hanh
Stress is normal
The world is a stressful place. There is nothing wrong with stress itself. It is a normal physiological state that occurs to protect us. It prepares the body to run away or fight to save itself. There are many things that can trigger the stress response and often this is the wisest response the body can make to a situation that arises.
Trouble is that along with the triggers where a stress response is ideal, there are many other factors that trigger it inappropriately. Besides the external pressures that we face on a daily basis, our minds tend to fool the body into perpetual flight or fight mode. Our thinking, memories, and conditioning can all set it off inappropriately. Anything we perceive as threat, real or imagined, trigger our stress response.
Our bodies also get into habits of reactivity. When we are stressed all the time, everything becomes a potential threat. Over time we get used to being stressed! It becomes our “normal” state of being. Of course it is not the ideal state. Ultimately it leads to physical, emotional, and psychological dis-ease.
Our ideal resting state is one of relaxation. When we are relaxed the body is able to heal itself, digest food, and generally run systems that are essential longevity and well being.
What is Relaxation
Many of our activities in this age, that are supposedly relaxing are not. Relaxation is not vegging out in front of a screen, watching a series. It is not sleeping. You can have very restless sleep that has nothing to do with relaxation.
Relaxation is when the body is in a state of relaxed alertness. A bit like a cat that is resting by a window, appearing to be dozing but able to suddenly move with lightning speed to catch a fly. Then it is totally chilled in the next instant. Relaxation is a state of being. A state of non-reactive presence.
How relaxation manifests
It manifests in the breath as slow, deep breathing. In the body as a feeling of ease. While the mind experiences it as a state of calm. Our emotions flow freely in this state (positive and negative ones). It is the place where we are able to be creative. We feel open and receptive.
To move yourself into a state of relaxation is essential.
The more relaxation we experience, the more our body remembers what it feels like. Hence the easier it is to return to it after a bout of fight or flight. In a conscious dance class, the simple act of being present, begins our journey back into the relaxed state. Allowing everything moving inside you to be there without resistance adds to the process.
There is an attitude we should adopt in the way we move. We need to be present and able to feel the signals and signs the body is giving us. Just as there is a way in which movements will relax the body. There is also a way in which our movements will stress or hurt the body. This is true whether we are moving slow or fast, with low or high intensity, expressive or flowing.
The invitation is to really feel and move the way the body wants to move. Trusting that your body aims to always return to it’s natural state. Follow cues and signals given by the body. Let them inform your movement. If you are moving in a repetition of movement that is continuously causing pain, or triggering the tight parts of the body, you will stress the body. This is an extreme example of how not to move. If you feel a movement uncovers a pain in the body, then the exploration around that pain and how to move in ways that ease it, or nurture that part of the body, can be deeply relaxing.
The art of Relaxation
Discovering how we can rest in movement is an art and a skill. It will spill over into all the movements of our lives. The dance is no different ultimately, from the way you are at work, at home, or in relationship to another. Have courage to allow the wisdom borne out of being present and receptive to lead you in the dance. Overriding the movements of fear, thought, fantasy, desire and delusion can go a long way in creating a calm relaxed state in which all these things have a dance but they are not ‘The Dance’.
If you can end a dance feeling centred, calm, open and receptive. Having moved through all that was being held in your being. You will start to experience a deep state of relaxation. Repeat this regularly and the effects are carried into all of life:- better sleep, easier digestion, more energy, better health, emotional and psychological well-being, more creativity, and a more positive expression and attitude towards life. Which is nice.