How to use external tension for internal relaxation?
Every once in a while, the training changes – things you’ve seen many times suddenly take on new meaning. Emmanuel’s classes this week have generated exactly this feeling – I am struck by the depth of the work that is being shown.
The exercises this week required that we continually pay attention to one thing, while under stress. The idea is simple, but the learning process it kicks off is sophisticated.
Slow pushups, squats and leg raises are examples, but the key is to focus your attention on the points of contact on the floor. The pressure and distribution of weight on these surfaces should remain the same throughout the movement. If the feeling in your fist changes while doing the pushup, then you have tension. Sensitivity to the evenness of pressure on the surface of your feet and fists is much more beneficial than trying to “endure” the exercise with breathing as I’ve done in the past.
These exact exercises have been shown to me and explained before, yet, I am only beginning to understand them now.
Think of the ground as 100% tension; it does not move or change in anyway for you. Therefore, the ground is a mirror – it returns every force back to you exactly. Every change that you sense in the surfaces connected to the ground, no matter how small, is something happening or shifting inside you. Therefore, the only way to remove tension from the equation is to remove it from yourself. The feeling and objective of the pushup then dramatically changes.
This is a really brilliant principle. Since only the fist and feet are the points of contact with the ground, tensions anywhere in the body will manifest at these places. So you are developing deep internal work and control, because you start to “see” deep tensions in your back, shoulder, hips, neck from a body part that does not seem immediately connected to it.
Mastering this ability will grant you a “tension sonar” into your training partners’ body any time you are physically touching them. After all, if you can identify tension in yourself from a pushup, then you should be able to do the same when you lay a fist on your partner, OR if they are grabbing/striking you. It gives you the ability to work with pinpoint accuracy directly into their tension. Interestingly, you then become the mirror of THEIR tension, by forcing them to look inside in order to understand what is happening. The result is learning and internal understanding for both parties.
Realistically speaking, how many students actually remove tension through these exercises? It’s not a concept that immediately made sense to me, and even though it was explained to me for many years, I didn’t understand how hard physical labour would ever remove tension.
A person needs to perceive these exercises correctly. A good explanation does not provide the skill, but it can set a person on the path to training the skill properly much sooner. I hope this post accelerates the process for anyone reading.
I encourage you to try the exercise Vlad showed right now. Stay attentive to the distribution of pressure on the end of your fist as you go up and down the pushup repeatedly. Give yourself a real challenge. When you finally fatigue, stop and read on.
If you pushed yourself, you lost the feeling of the ground under your fist at some point.
What happened to your attention?
For me, the feelings of the muscular effort eventually replace the sensation of the surface of the floor; this often is not realized until after it has happened. By then, tension has entered.
What’s the principle here?
Continuous sensitivity and feeling of your environment is incompatible with internal tension.
In your next class, consider these two ideas. I hope they bring your many hours of insights into yourself, and expand the quality and success of your training with your partners.
Do not focus on gaining relaxation through effort. You can force yourself to hold the pushup longer, but sheer force of will is always a poor substitute for understanding what is happening here. This is because motor learning is slow if you try to force anything. Attention to what surfaces your body is resting on allows the nervous system to sense possibilities, and learn how things feel via trial and error.
You must observe with curiosity the distribution of weight on surface you are resting on as much as possible. The surface of your feet if you are standing, your toes and fists if in the pushup, whatever is on the ground and on your partner while wrestling, etc. If this connection with the ground or your partner is not stable, you have found tension in yourself.
Done properly, your body will feel integrated, light, happy and free, but possess power born alongside internal relaxation. Your breathing will co-develop with an increasingly stable nervous system to develop load bearing structures within your body that require minimal tension.