The Anatomy of Tension

by J. Donald Walters (Swami Kriyananda) (excerpted from the book: Ananda Yoga for Higher Awareness)

It is impossible to develop true Self-awareness without first learning how to relax . . . The science of yoga might even be defined as a process of progressive relaxation . . . To withdraw one’s mind from worldly attachment is . . . no easy task. . . Even when the mind tries consciously to withdraw from outward distractions, subconscious habit patterns may continue to direct the energy on its customary outward course, tensing the body, putting “knots” in the nerves, imprisoning the energy in the muscles and nerve channels.

Desire for outward activity causes tension. This tension is especially noticeable in the legs and arms. The tendons above the feet, the front part of the calves and thighs, contract automatically with the impulse to be “up and doing.” The arms, the front part of the armpits, the fingers (especially the little fingers and the thumbs and forefingers, where important nerves have their endings) – here, too, tension reflects any inner need to “swing” into action.

The desire for activity originates in the mind, but, like the steady increase of sound that occurs in “feedback” between loudspeaker and a microphone, tension augments that initial desire. . . When a person is completely relaxed, it is easy to sit still (in meditation) even for hours at a time.

Paramhansa Yogananda . . . explained that, for physical relaxation, one must first become conscious of existing tension. . . He taught that to develop this consciousness one must first increase that tension deliberately. Tense the whole body. When fully conscious of this tension, release it completely; become altogether limp and motionless.

Sasamgasana, the Hare Pose, does this by stretching, then relaxing, the shoulders, arms, and between the shoulder blades. . . it helps to free the mind of the suggestion, through feedback, that one should be continuously busy doing things.

Because it is refreshing to the brain, Sasamgasana helps to banish mental fatigue. It is a good pose to practice before meditation.”

“Sasamgasana” is a pose frequently taught in Ananda Yoga Classes, and is part of the Hatha Yoga Intensive.