Tensing and Releasing

Go for the flow.

Go for the flow.

Many know the relaxation technique of tensing the body’s muscles, head to toe, and releasing them, in a wavelike sequence.

It is a great relaxation technique, yet it is also a superb warming-mobility approach as well. As you well may know, static stretching of muscles without warming up, is now out.

Tensing muscles even more in their tighter states of unreadiness (i.e. when you feel tension binding your body, movement, and coordination), will bring the warming blood flow increase to the targeted muscle or muscle group. Relaxing then, the muscles loosen. Progressively, tensing again, and releasing tension again, brings yet more looseness and pliability to the muscles.

A good example to illustrate is that of leaning over to touch our toes, and stopping at the point of felt-tightness, hanging there a few moments. Feet are flat on the ground. From the ground, from feet through the lower back, including all hip girdle muscles, we tense all of our muscles that we can and hold that tension a few seconds. Then we release. We should then feel our fingertips and entire upper body descend more easily from the waist toward the ground, feeling a bit looser. Repeat the process and see how low you can go.

Remember to breathe, either exhaling or inhaling during tension and the opposite during release, and keep that going. Shake out your body when done.

If you feel dizzy doing this, touch or grab a fixture for balance and slowly recover the upright position. An alternative is to touch the ground, and if loose enough to sit down, sit down and rest until the dizziness is over. If the dizziness is major, you feel you are going to faint or blackout, or if you repeatedly get dizzy doing this, stop exercise and schedule a physical with your doctor and tell your doctor about your experience.

Otherwise, think of the many formerly static stretches you used to do by warming up more generally, and add this specific and gradual tensing, releasing, extending, and repeating process to build flexibility, pliability, utility, and strength in the many, many supporting and dynamic muscles of the body.

16 thoughts on “Tensing and Releasing

  1. Sounds like a method we use in my Pilates class to warm up. i often use it now before doing activities as it helps the mind to focus and the body to realize its time to work. Good post.

    • Morning doc! The gradual, inside-out nature of the movements and breathing, all working together have something to do with this expansion and tension relaxation. I also think this approach respects the body’s readiness levels at any given time.

  2. I’ll have to give this modification a shot. I’m not very flexible; maybe this will help me get a little farther towards them toes.

  3. Thank you for following my Barefoot Baroness blog, and love yours. I first learned the Muscle tension method for natural child birth in 1973, Then it was dubbed Muscle Association/Disassociation. Once i was a young mom it became an evening ritual with my daughters who learned to quiet themselves and to fall asleep without fussing. Today I have a chronic muscle/skeletal disease with severe spasms. I use the same technique
    It is brilliant seeing that it is still being taught.~

  4. Hi Mike,

    Thanks so much for the tips. This sounds a lot like neuro-integrated stretching, where you also tighten and then release the muscles. It takes concentration, but it sure feels good!


    • Thanks for taking the time to comment and read, Nancy. I know you’re busy and it is a real boost to hear from you. There are a number of things to call this approach, one of which I guess could simply be called “taking the time and thoughtful work to discover what muscles can do.”

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