So, as my practice deepens I have been trying to pay more and more attention (in my off the mat life) to where and how I am holding unnecessary tension. For awhile I was obsessed with my head and I was doing this thing that I could only characterize as, "relaxing my skull" where I'd sort of do pull my attention into the way-back of my head, make what I'm sure was a very unattractive face, and try to relax all the muscles surrounding my skull. (Note: I don't even know if there ARE muscles surrounding my skull, but the process of doing this little exercise made my ears pop and little waves of pleasure run down my neck, so whatever...it worked).
But lately my attention has shifted...downwards.
It all started with my butt. Yes, my butt. It was this thing I started to notice, in totally mundane moments of the day--when getting a glass of water from the sink or waiting for my tea to brew or just, kind of, standing around, I would notice that my butt was kind of, um--gripping. The muscles around my outer hips and the big ol' glut muscles themselves were unnecessarily engaged.
Please, if you don't know me, try not to make any overarching judgment calls about what this says about me as a person...I am hopeful that I do not project a personality that screams "butt clencher"...so, if we could all just keep our minds on this purely anatomically, that would be great.
Anyhoo. I found this kind of curious, and began to pay closer attention, and sure enough, in all kinds of situations, especially tense ones, I could feel all the muscles around my hips and butt and groin start to, almost imperceptibly, tighten. As if my body was stepping in and cutting off sensation from that point down.
And I thought about how often I feel like my breath and my emotional center is located high up in my chest, and I thought about how I've often felt that it was difficult to kind of lock-in to sensation in my lower belly, and about how f-ing tight my groins are (sorry, TMI) in wide-legged straddles, etc. And I put it together that I might actually be tightening muscles in that area to cut myself off from a certain variety of feeling...or to at least keep conscious feeling localized in my chest and head regions only.
So, over the last week or so, I have been consciously trying to release tension in and around my pelvis, hips, butt and thighs, both in and out of class, and have been urging this process along by doing a lot of hanuman (the splits), frog pose (I can't even...this pose is like torture to me...I can't even describe it), and deep thigh stretches. And the results have been...pretty amazing actually.
1. I am feeling WAY more grounded. I feel much more aware of my feet and legs and just the presence of the ground underneath me (In certain moments I am suddenly "aware" of my height...which is a weird kind of fun-house sensation in which the whole length of my body is sort of lit-up in my consciousness, all at once).
2. I am FEELING a lot more stuff. I won't go into the details, but basically it feels that I've covered up a fox-hole that certain emotions used to hide away in, and now they've got nowhere to run to, baby...
3. Things are opening up, physically. Those poses that I mentioned I've been doing...those are all poses in which I struggle, mightily, and they are all (minutely) beginning to become more accessible. And much more powerful, as I am now feeling fully present inside of them, instead of stuck way up in my chest and head, trying to pull away.
The more I conduct these little yoga-laboratory experiments, the more I am amazed by the capacity of the body to hold on and to communicate that which it is holding on too.