I get bodywork regularly myself, as part of my own self-care, healing journey, growth and learning.
One of the themes that's been up in my life has been noticing the places where I strive/push/put the pressure on too much or unnecessarily, where I create my own urgency, anxiety and tension. I often and regularly attend to chronic tension and pain patterns in my own body, but it can be easy to get in the mode of "fix it" or "make it go away", especially when I'm experiencing pain or discomfort.
During a bodywork session I was receiving recently, I realized I was trying really hard to relax. I was taking huge, slow breaths, puffing up my belly as much as I could, searching and pushing for the edge of the tension and stretch, and willing/hoping/praying it would let go. I laughed out loud when I realized the contradiction (and that it wasn't really working)...
I decided to try something entirely different, and instead of focusing in on the part I wanted to change, I expanded my focus to sense the whole of my body (a trick I use at the dentist, where I tend to get quite tense and hyper-focused on whatever is happening in my mouth).
It's important here to note what a shift this was for my nervous system, to go from hyper-focus and vigilance on one specific area (what we do when we are stressed or anxious about something), to an expanded sensing of my whole body (what we do when we are feeling grounded and safe). I noticed right away that I felt better, that there was a lot more ease I could access and resource from the rest of my body. I had a big sigh, a little wiggle, and felt myself relax more.
It's like going out and looking at the expanse of the sky after staring at a small screen for hours.
You can try this simple exercise for 1 minute for yourself now, whether you have pain or tension or not, and see what you notice
- Focus on one area intensely. Maybe stretch to find an area of tension in your body. How does it feel to hone in on the stretch/pain/tension sensation for 20-30 seconds? What do you notice? How is your breath?
- Now, without changing anything else, expand your awareness to sense/feel/include the inside of your whole body for 20-30 seconds. What do you notice?* Feel free to move, shift, breathe, or adjust with this new perspective.
For me, this also became a broader inquiry in my healing journey: How often am I striving not to strive so hard? Trying not to push? Desperate to let go? Struggling to feel better? Is the energetic I'm bringing to my goals and intentions actually serving? What parts of me feel that they need to strive, try, push, struggle, etc in order to be okay? (This is a rich exploration to bring to somatic/talk therapy in conjunction with bodywork - a highly recommended combo)!
Let me know if you try this, or want to explore this in your next session. I hope it sparks deeper curiosity and exploration.
*Maybe feeling/sensing your whole body was challenging or completely foreign. For me, it has taken practice to be able to toggle my attention like that. You might try instead to focus on a different body part that feels more relaxed, neutral, or at ease—maybe your hands, your feet, a finger, your back or butt against the chair. The point is to see what happens when you shift your focus from a place of pain or strain to a place of neutrality or ease. And it's okay if it takes practice!
Remember: Where the mind goes, grows.