What is Relaxation?
How relaxed does your body feel when you’re reclining in your dentist’s chair?
First of all, what is relaxation anyway? How do you know when you’re relaxed? What are the sensations in your body that you label “relaxation”?
Answering these questions gives you agency over the relaxation process—it becomes something you can do, rather than something that has to be done to you. But your answers need to come out of your bodily experience.
Rolling for Relaxation
My favorite meditation for inducing a relaxed state in my body is the one below. It’s an old video, but watch and try it again to get the most out of the rest of this post. It will give you a fresh hit of the relaxed state. Play some gentle music and roll for 15 minutes.
Rolling practice gives you an intimate experience of your relationship with gravity. What you feel when you push yourself upright after a session of rolling is heaviness. You perceive the weight of your body. This is the essence of relaxation. The experience of pouring your body’s weight from one side to the other changes your experience of other movements when you stand up and walk around. You become more aware of the shifts of weight through your body as you change positions. Movement in your ankles, hips and spine can seem more fluid—because you are more relaxed. You may feel more grounded. You might even feel a bit dull, but that’s because your focus on feeling the ground has temporarily diminished your awareness of your spatial environment. Spatial perception is important too, but for now we're focused on your relationship with the ground.
Here's my personal list of things not to like (feel free to add your own):
- Moments of pain.
- Anticipation of pain.
- General anxiety, probably linked to memories of prior dental experiences.
- The dentist’s invasion of my personal space (even though I’ve given permission).
- Too much focused attention directed at my body.
The Moment After
Even though I know that that hardening my myofascia doesn’t help me get through an unpleasant experience, I find it understandable that my body tenses up when I feel pain. But what do I do once the pain moment is over? Generally I let myself down onto the chair again, but without completely yielding into it. I remain in an anticipatory state. It’s like the moment in rolling practice when you’ve reached your destination on one side, but are aware of places in your body that could yield more completely to the ground. In that moment of awareness you envision sand in an hourglass or flakes in a snow globe drifting to the very bottom.
The practice of rolling gives you a sense memory of what it feels like to relax, and of your own personal process of doing so. Maybe there’s a hardening of your jaw or clenching of your abdomen that lingers and needs special coaxing to soften and surrender. That’s what rolling practice can teach you. You can take this awareness into the real world every time you go to the dentist.
Surely there are other moments in your life when this awareness might come in handy.
© 2018 Mary Bond