The Importance of Tension

As a Yoga teacher, I have often found myself reciting the cue “let go of the tension” or “free your body from tension”. I think for many of us we have a slightly ignorant relationship to the realities of tension, what ‘tension’ actually is and, most importantly, how vital tension is for movement and posture.

Without the presence of consistent tension, in our bodies, we’d be reduced to a blobby pile of soft squishy tissues and bones; not the most efficient for movement and function.

We can understand this idea and principle, with the aid of Tensegrity models, as shown in the images below (models are from ‘Tensegri-teach’).

The 6 wooden dowels, without the elastics, would simply be a pile of wooden sticks. But, by forming this structure to maintain the elastics in a balanced state of tension, gives this structure LIFE! When force is applied, the elastics and dowels, in a shared relationship, alter their tensions to permit change to the structure, but not allow the structure to be completely damaged. It’s the principle of ‘shock-absorption’.

In our bodies, the connective tissues (bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons & fascia) maintain a balance of tension in the body, giving us structure, shape and that important ability to absorb shock and create movement.

Altering Tension

So, should we be altering this tension?

Of course!! This tension isn’t permanent in a singular, perfect state. The Tension or Tensegrity (becoming a more recognised anatomical concept), is constantly altering to adjust to the forces applied and generated in the body. Also, our postural tension, how we generally hold our bodies in space, is affected or dictated by this tension. So playing with it, using stretching or toning to both tighten or loosen the tissues is ESSENTIAL to play a conscious part in maintaining your physical health.

CAUTION // Ensure your guidelines for balancing tension is built from a principle of feeling balance in your body, not necessarily what we see. The body has all sorts of coping mechanisms going on, so if it feels good; that’s mostly going to be good. Avoid working towards an aesthetic ‘ideal’.

How to change your thinking…

How about, instead of thinking about getting rid of tension, change the quest to ‘how to better distribute tension through your body’.

Tension is ESSENTIAL and WONDERFUL, when it’s distributed well and efficiently. Bring yourself into a state where you feel able to spring, if needed, but calm enough to not work too hard……..easy…….ish!

See how the impact distributes through the ‘tensioned structure’ of this ‘Tensegrity Model’.

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