How are my eyes in this moment? Am I holding tension there? Experiment: Squint (as you might do while in front of a computer screen) while swinging your arms open as though you've just reached the top of a mountain. Bring the arms back down. Now release the tightness in your eyes, and swing the arms open again. Can you tell a difference in the entire body? in the breath? in the way that you feel?
|Warrior eyes: Wide open!|
Am I clenching my jaw, which probably means that I’m also holding my tongue tight in my mouth? Try clenching your jaw and smiling. Not too convincing, eh?
Are my shoulders rounded forward, or up around my ears? A study was done with a group of top college students: they were asked to slump 24/7 for an extended period of time. Overall, their grades went down and many of them reported an onset of depression.
As I breathe in, my belly should expand. Is that happening in this moment, or am I holding my breath or chest breathing instead? (When I started taking piano lessons at age 40, I held my breath while playing through lines of music—my teacher had to remind me, Breathe!) If we're holding tension in the belly, among other harm being done, our cells are not getting the oxygen they need to be healthy.
I've added this one—the sphincter muscle—to the list. We have words for people who stay constricted in this area—“tight ass,” “anal retentive,” etc. Even if there is total relaxation in your eyes, jaws, shoulders, and belly, if you’re holding on for dear life at the point of this muscle, you will not be invited to any fun parties.
|A baby has open Eyes, Jaw, Shoulders, Belly, and probably Bum too|
You may know of Shakira's hit song, Hips Don't Lie. Actually, no body part lies. If our body is constricted, our mind is constricted, and nobody can hide a tight mind behind eloquent words, good acts, or even a smile.
Let the Soul banish all that disturbs;
Let the Body that envelops it be still,
And all the frettings of the Body,
And all that surrounds it.
Let Earth and Sea and Air be still
And Heaven itself.
And then let the Body think
Of the Spirit as streaming, pouring,
Rushing and shining into it from
All sides while it stands quiet.
-Plotinus, AD 205