How does tension collect in the body ? How is it affecting us? What can we do about it?

Tension often first shows up most obviously in the head, neck, jaw and shoulders – but also elsewhere.

Part of my job as a massage therapist is to help people lose tension held in the body, this in itself can leave some people looking transformed. Sometimes it is recently accumulated tension, relieved by letting go and relaxing; sometimes it is older more chronic tension, more solidified in bodily tissues that needed a more active intervention, sometimes something of both. Either way, releasing tension is good for us and holding tension in the body is not for a variety of reasons:

  • It feels unpleasant.
  • we feel contracted and tight.
  • It can restrict breathing.
  • Muscles feel gripped.
  • It can constrict blood flow though vessels, tissues and organs.
  • It can be at the seat of some body pain.
  • It can steal our energy (it takes energy to hold tension).
  • It can leave us anxious or depressed (though that is a chicken and egg story).
  • Chronic tension and stress can have more pernicious effects on our physiology which can damage our health ( a longer story beyond the scope of this article).

Here are some suggestions around what causes it and how we can learn to handle it.

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Massage Culture in Thailand.

Street pop up massage place on market day.

Massage is very much part of day to day life in Thailand . Often it is not segregated away into sanitised clinics and spas (but those places exist) . It is both part of popular culture and a serious medical treatment . Traditionally children massage parents (bring it on) and it’s not uncommon just to see people getting stuck into each other’s knots and blocks in less formal work settings and markets. At the airport when leaving I saw one of the cleaners going over one of his colleagues, including standing on him, just on the floor outside the loos . Whilst on my research and study trips I made it my business to receive massage in as many and varied places as possible.

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Learning Thai massage over 25 years, my experience.

Sunshine Massage School, Chiang Mai Thailand.

In my late 20’s my initial simple desire was to learn Thai massage as it was the best massage I had received, and it fitted with my developing career path in Yoga at that time. Perhaps naively I thought I would do a couple of courses and off I would go. I wasn’t really expecting to embark on an amazing adventure of lifelong learning , with lots of confusion along the way and to become immersed in another culture and worldview ; but I’m grateful I chose this route, am all the richer for it, and hopefully my clients appreciate it too.

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Meditation and its Philosophy in Plain English.

Meditation is a nuanced subject and practice, but there are some core elements common to most traditions . This guide reflects my own experience in the Buddhist/Yoga tradition and the most useful ideas that I have worked with. I do though feel it is not necessary to be allied to a tradition or religion to explore meditation, especially for those of use inclined towards humanism and a secular approach to exploring these matters. The framework and container provided by a tradition or religion maybe well be helpful , especially to get started ( they often have a lot of centuries of practice behind them) , but it may equally be helpful to keep a neutral open minded position to avoid pre-conceived notions on experience and confirmation biases.

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