How to recognize tension and relaxation in muscles

Day One concentrates on the legs and on how to recognize tension and relaxation in the thigh muscles.

Lie on the floor, legs slightly apart, arms by your sides, head supported by a large firm pillow. A small pillow should be placed under each knee. Allow about 30 minutes for the session.

a. Breathe in and out regularly 10 times, and then gently feel the front of your right thigh with the middle finger of your right hand. (More detailed breathing techniques are taught on Day Two.) Keep this finger rigid and prod the thigh muscle. The sensation will be a bit like prodding a beach li-lo or well-filled hot water bottle. The thigh muscles are bound together around the thigh bone in a tight sheath, like the outside rubber on a hot water bottle or air bed, and when muscles are relaxed they feel wobbly, like the water in a hot water bottle. Try to stay with this feeling in the thigh muscle, though at first this will be difficult until the next manoeuvre (b) gives you a contrasting feeling.

b. Lift your right leg off the floor and hold it so that the right foot is just off the ground. Keep it there while you count five. First of all you will feel a sort of ‘wormy’ wriggling feeling in the calf and lower leg muscles. They are having proprioceptive problems and have difficulty in analyzing these as they don’t quite know what you are expecting of them. This will give you your first positive experience of proprioceptive activity in a muscle group. More important now is to prod the front of the thigh once again. It will feel stony hard. Stay with the feeling while you count slowly to 20. Prod the muscle repeatedly to confirm the feeling from your prodding finger and the feelings coming from inside the muscle. Count slowly to 20 again. Now you will be feeling pressure in your left heel, left hip and left shoulder. Again proprioceptive messages will be coming to your brain from these

a Breathe in and out regularly 10 times. Prod right thigh muscle of right leg with rigid middle finger of right hand. Stay with the feeling in thigh muscle.

b Lift right leg off floor. Hold for count of five. Prod thigh muscle again. Count slowly to 20, prodding muscle repeatedly and staying with tense feeling of muscle. Count slowly to 20 again.

c Resume starting position. Breathe in and out gently 10 times, and prod thigh muscle. Concentrate on how relaxed it feels areas. Perhaps they are signalling ‘What shall we do? Is he trying to right himself?’

c. Now resume the starting (resting) position with the right leg on the floor. Breathe gently in and out 10 times and again prod the right thigh muscle, staying with the relaxed muscle feeling and thinking how different it feels from the tensed muscle.

Repeat this whole procedure three times with the right leg, and then repeat with the left leg. (Right-handed people usually learn to relax the right side of the body more easily than the left, and vice versa.)

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