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The Bodywork Perspective – Dealing with Muscular Tension – page 3

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Muscular Tension

neutral posture

We'll be continually be referring to neutral positions for the body and its parts.

A neutral position, from a muscular tension perspective, needs little effort to maintain. Which is why I keep encouraging you to experiment with each and every position. Feel what muscles you have to tense and shorten, which muscles have to let go and stretch to assume non-neutral positions.

Here's the point: each unresolved emotional or physical trauma causes muscles to contract, and the opposing muscles to stretch. Human bodies are dynamic processes. If you flex your biceps (go ahead!) and look in a mirror, you'll see that the biceps contracts and the triceps (the opposing muscle, under the arm below the biceps) stretches and relaxes. If you extend and tighten the triceps, the biceps relaxes and stretches. Dynamic.

Now, imagine flexing your biceps and leaving it flexed. For, say, a month or two. First of all, after a few minutes, your body would send pain signals. Your arm might begin to spasm. If you choose to ignore your pain, block it, tune it out, eventually your biceps would shrink and the triceps stretch, trying to reach stasis and to eliminate the pain.

Were you then to straighten your arm, (and this would not be easy!!!) your biceps would have to stretch, and your triceps take up slack. Result? Pain.

Now, recognize that in each posture that is not neutral, exactly this process has taken place. Muscles have stretched; others have contracted, away from neutral.

As you try these positions, and hold them, you'll feel pain. You might then wonder at the ability of a person for whom this position is "normal" to block the pain you are feeling. Block it they do. At the price of not feeling much at all in the contracted area.

Chi, or energy, has trouble flowing through a tightened muscle. This results in less and less of the life force moving through the body. Conversely, when the block releases, the person feels a flood of blocked emotions, as well as a flood of moving energy.

To conclude: any position that is not neutral is maintained through the contraction of muscles, the blocking of pain and with an attendant loss of feeling in the BodyMindSpirit. Each blocked section "limits" the movement of chi, or life force. Freeing the blockage releases the muscle, the trapped emotion and the feelings that caused the muscle to tighten. Chi flows freely.

The Body, Zones and Parts

We have had an overview of the whole body, and looked at the rudiments of the life story the body as a whole tells. Now, we begin a part by part, zone by zone exploration. You'll begin to see that you have an intuitive sense about what a particular posture "could" mean. Many of the meanings are contained in body related clichés and expressions, like "I have to get this off of my chest," or "I'm having trouble stomaching this."

Let's begin from the top, and work down.

The Head - Neck Zone

The head has three major positions, which I'll describe as forehead out, jaw out and neutral.

Let me note that we all tilt our heads. We're looking to discover the normal resting position of the head (or any other part we talk about.)

In other words, what position is the part usually in?

eyes down

Forehead out, eyes slightly downcast

In the section on "body tilt," above, we talked about the head being thrust forward by the body - sort of a head bashing, full speed head position. This tilt starts at the lower body—the whole body is tilted forward. . 

Forehead out, on the other hand, is a function of the neck alone. The chin is tucked in, forcing the forehead out. The rest of the body might be neutral.

This is a position of inferiority or shame. To look at someone in front of you from this position, you have to roll your eyes up, which is a pleading expression. As you try this position, you almost feel your lip want to quiver involuntarily. It's the position of someone who does not value him/herself. It also can express extreme shyness and the wish not to occupy too much space.

We often describe people in this posture as being "downcast"—meaning sad, depressed, forlorn. This expression comes from the position of the eyes when we tip our head down.

bodywork, jaw out

Jaw Out

Jaw Out - I'm flashing on Dudley Do-right - with the huge jaw pointing forward. The neck is again responsible for this position, pulling back and causing the head to tip upward. The person seems to be pointing with their chin. To see a person standing in front of them, they have to "look down" on them.

This is a position of arrogance, and self-righteousness. Others are seen as inferior or as being in need of help. This person is willing to "take it on the chin" - to mix it up, to fight for their right to be arrogant and superior.

We describe people as "looking down their nose" at someone—again, this is about the eye position, but the position is the result of the tip of the head.

bodywork, neutral head ©Wayne C. Allen, 2001

Neutral Head Position

Neutral Head Position - is straight and almost level; perhaps "up" 1 or 2 degrees.

The neutral position leans a smidgen in the direction of self confidence without arrogance.

There is a clear balance and fluidity to the head—the head seems to be lightly attached to the neck, and moves freely in all directions.

If there is a "tilt" in any direction, it is not "fixed." In other words, the person may have a proclivity to "tilt" the head, (and this is worth noticing in passing, as left/right tilts are indicative of chi balance/imbalance) but proclivity differs from rigidity.

This is something you will learn with practice.

Eyes—The mirror of the Soul. Well, maybe.

bodywork, neutral eyes
© Wayne C. Allen, 2000

Neutral eyes

Neutral eyes are simply open. If you squint or go wide-eyed, notice how many muscles you have to use to maintain it. Neutral happens without effort.

It's important to be aware of the "look" of the area around the eyes. Look for relaxed skin, and lightness to the eye lids.

bodywork, wide eyes
© Wayne C. Allen, 2000

Wide Eyes

Wide eyes - the person looks like Bambi. I describe the look as "a deer caught in the headlights of an onrushing truck."

Such eyes let too much in, and the person is overwhelmed. Wide eyed wonder applies here. This person has seen herself get run over before, and simply can't believe it's about to happen again. But it always turns out that way.

The eyes, then, are constantly locked wide open, vulnerable. Hypnotized.


Squinty Eyes

Squinty eyes are non-trusting eyes.

If the way one lives one's life could be pictured as entering through the eyes, having the eyes partially closed indicates great caution—the person fears letting too much in. Such a person is painfully aware of past attacks; has let people in in the past, and is now very, very afraid.

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