Tension and compression seem to be opposing forces. Tension is the pulling of muscles. Compression is squeezing things together. And yet in yoga, we are told to both create a sense of tension and experience compression in different forms (for example, bandhas), which seems contradictory. But if we understand tension and compression as opposite ends on continuum, and if we can maintain the ability to feel both elements at once, then tension and compression will become complementary forces that enrich our practice.
Tension and Compression are two ways to relate to the body and to objects in the world around you. They are opposites, but they can be used together quite effectively. Too much compression, however, tends to lead to collapse, rigidity, and pain. Too much tension leads to brittle dissociation from your own body and a tendency to overreact to the world outside. People will use this technique “just to feel alive” or “to get in a body” or “to feel free.” The technique is an expression of the inner-world and is therefore not objective.
Tension is best left to old people who do nothing but lie and get in their own bodies. A good example would be a senior person who doesn’t think about their own body or the world around them. They are like the movie characters who eat their own eyeballs. They don’t move because everything is already in front of them. They are all alone in the world, and all needs are met. I have never met anyone like this.
On the other hand, use compression on a person who is too rigid and still. One has to be very careful about moving them. With each compression, the person should make a small movement at first and feel the change in the body, before applying any more pressure. That person is usually just a skeleton, a block of flesh and bone, but they may allow their physical body to be moved by the pressure, and in fact, become alive with it. With time, they may respond to this compression with an increase in vitality.
Tension is too harsh for people who need to be mobile and have a body that can be adjusted and stretched and worked on. The person needs to feel and be alive inside. The technique should be made available to people who may not have the time or energy to work on themselves, but who want a way to release tension and loosen stiff muscles. It can be used in a yoga class for relaxation, or it can be a “take it home” practice for the elderly.
The method is usually offered in a class. The person receives a series of compressions and the class is a sequence of five compressions followed by a series of relaxation.
There are several reasons that people use the five compressions to get back to a position of strength. The first one is because it is an awesome experience. The person feels as if they are being crushed, their body is like a teeter totter, and they feel invincible. The second one is that it works, but they have no idea that they are returning to a strong position. They just feel as if they are getting better at sleeping. The third one is that it does work, but the person is unaware of the fact. They may notice some improvement, but the actual feeling of “better” is lost in the background. The fourth reason is that the person is just using the technique to get their body and head back into a position of good health, but again, the body is a much more subtle thing than the head.
Often the use of the five compressions is used as a method to calm the mind and clear the mind. When the body feels as if it is being crushed, the mind gets anxious. The five compressions make the mind aware of the body’s connection to the head. All of this can help calm the mind. When the body relaxes, the mind loses its connection to the body. When the four ways of connection between the body and mind are at war, there is only one mind, no body.
The five compression method is so cool because it is unique and good. But it can also be dangerous if the person not educated about what is going on.
The five compression method works if the person’s spine is bent. The person puts their hands against the back of the chair. The person’s knees are bent, and the person’s head is lowered toward the ceiling, while their heels are resting on the floor. The person can practice the four ways of connection until they feel the position good, so that’s the most important thing that the person has to be aware of.
The four ways of connection are body-to-ground, body-to-chair, chair-to-body, and chair-to-head.
The person will usually notice when the body’s connection to the ground is good. When the body is in the body-to-ground position, the person may sit in that position and practice the four ways of connection: the person’s heels are touching the floor, or the person’s heels are resting on the floor, or the person’s heels are higher off the floor. The person’s head is lowered to the floor, and then the person’s neck is relaxed, finally the person’s body is ready for the fifth and final compression. If the person’s chair is positioned low, the person will sit in the body-to-chair position. And finally, if the person’s chair is placed high, the person will sit in the chair-to-body position.
The person does not have to use the same position for each of the four ways of connection. The person just has to practice the four ways of connection. If the person’s head is down, the person will have to lower the person’s legs until the person’s head is back up again. If the person’s legs are resting against the chair, the person will have to lower the person’s head until the person’s legs are off the chair.
The person’s head can be down, rested against the back of the chair, or down with the person’s legs resting on the chair. After the person has concentrated on the breath for four weeks, the person’s connection to the ground will be strong.
The fourth time the person does the body-to-chair position, the person will use the chair-to-body position, and finally the person will sit in the chair-to-body position. The person’s legs will be up on the chair’s back, and the person’s feet will be flat on the floor. The person’s arms will be crossed, and the person’s head will be down, and the person’s body will be in a stable position. The person’s body will be connected to the ground.
If the person’s body is out of balance, or the person has been pushing his or her body into the ground or over the ground, the person will notice that his or her body is more relaxed after the person has practiced a few minutes. Then the person will notice that the person’s muscle tension has dispersed.
The person will then be ready to use the chair in a sitting position, and in addition, the person will be ready to press down on the back of the chair with his or her legs, as a counterbalance to the person’s body.
During the four weeks of practicing this exercise, the person will perform the exercise in front of the TV, a fireplace, a plant, a stair, or a counter, so that the TV is not a barrier. If the fireplace is used, it will be a transitional place, because people have difficulty transitioning into sitting in a sitting position with the back of the chair down and the hands on the lap.
The person will perform the chair-to-body-to position, without the back of the chair, and the person will take a few deep breaths, and then the person will move the feet down, to rest against the bottom of the chair. When the feet are down, the person will press down on the backs of the chair, to support the person’s body, while the person does the chair-to-body-to position. The person will then bring the arms forward, and the person will take a few deep breaths, and then he or she will move the arms down, and the person will reach down with the forearms, to grasp the handles of the chair. The person will use the chair-to-body-to position, and the person will stay in the chair-to-body-to position for about five seconds, and then the person will exit the position, and the person will take a few deep breaths.
After about five seconds, the person will move the arms down, and the person will reach down with the forearms, to the handles of the chair. When the person moves the arms down, he or she will begin to do the chair-to-body-to position, and the person will stay in the chair-to-body-to position, about five seconds.
The reason that people usually feel tired when they begin to do the chair-to-body-to position is that there are lots of muscle groups, and lots of blood vessels, that are performing contractions in the same direction. The ones that are tired are the ones that are over-compensating in one direction. The person that does the chair-to-body-to position is also doing a position that is trying to match the muscles and the joints that are working in opposite directions. It is also trying to match the sides of the body that are working in opposite directions.
To match the muscles and the joints that are working in the same direction, is the very best way for a person to stay relaxed.
The ideal thing for a person to do when he or she is doing the chair-to-body-to position is to stretch the body, and then match the arms and the legs to make a large angle. The ideal thing for a person to do is to keep the spine straight, and keep the body balanced. When one does these things, the person does a position that is very difficult to over compensate in one direction. The person also can reach down to his or her body to feel the position, and the person is also able to relax and breathe. The person does all of these things when he or she is the seated position. If a person is unable to do all of these things when he or she is the seated position, he or she can do the chair-to-body-to position. A person can use the board, and also the wall to remain balanced in the position. The person is also able to reach his or her hands out to his or her body for any kind of help that he or she needs.
As soon as a person feels some discomfort, he or she should immediately undo the position and return to the seated position. The person who is taking these positions should be able to maintain them for at least a minute. In the end, when a person has practiced these positions for at least a minute, he or she should relax. Once a person relaxes, a person will feel calm, and all the tension that the person might have felt in the body will dissolve. This is the basis of these positions being so effective. For a person to remain calm, a person should not have an overwhelming feeling of tension.
The chair-to-body-to positions are excellent for an individual who is interested in staying healthy, and working towards his or her fitness goals. Most times, we are so busy in our lives that we do not have the time to be on the lookout for ways to stay healthy. These positions can help us reach our goals, while staying relaxed and feeling calm. These positions can help a person who is seeking a healthy lifestyle. To remain healthy, a person should learn and remember these 3 positions.
As soon as a person discovers these 3 positions, he or she can start to develop a healthy mind and body. The positions help a person in understanding how to maintain his or her body. A person should always keep the body erect. A person who is able to maintain his or her body erect is working towards his or her body’s ability to stay erect in different situations.
These positions are usually done with the legs straight out. A person can also do these positions with the back slightly bent. With these positions, the person’s core muscles, which are the group of muscles that line the back of the legs, are engaged. The person is able to engage this core area of the body. This area is strong and can hold up the body’s core area. When a person is able to do the positions with his or her back slightly bent, it is a less aggressive version of these positions. A person should do the less aggressive versions of these positions to improve his or her physical condition. A person who wants to maintain his or her health can continue to do the positions with his or her back slightly bent and allow the weight of the body to help hold the body erect. With this form, the person is able to build strength in the lower back and maintain the flexibility of the spine. A person who wants to maintain his or her health can push his or her body into the position without the weight of the body. This allows the person to improve flexibility, increase blood flow to the brain and maintain the ability to maintain body posture.
The video below is from the Paul Grilley DVD on Yoga Anatomy which will in-depth explain and showcase tension and compression. Please take advantage of the video player to search text, objects, people, scenes, and even actions. This will serve heavily in the yoga anatomy portion of our syllabus and program as well. For the interactive transcription view this on the home page via the muse.ai button in the player, from there in the description below the video will have all the table of contents chapters so you can jump around, and thumb stamps. Finally, feel free to turn on the subtitles.