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Kaylee Says "Relax"

Have you ever been told to "just relax" when you're feeling overwhelmed? Kill Bill sirens wail between the ears -- the opposite effect has taken place.

This phenomenon came up when discussing the yoga practice; when encouraged to relax the yogi had experienced the opposite effect and felt uncomfortable, or acutely aware of how not-relaxed he was.

After our conversation I considered whether I say this as a teacher or clinician. I thought about a previous clinical instructor who had me explore communication with patients. He encouraged me to find the fault in telling people what to do, as in "don't be sad" or "don't worry." Instead, we explored honoring those feelings. A yoga teacher had also made the observation that we can agree and empathize with our students/friends/other human's feelings, rather than offer a fix. When her children would tell her they were sad, stressed or angry in lieu of saying "don't be" or offering a way to change their state, she would agree with them. "You are angry," she said, noting that she mirrored the emotion along with the statement, to help the child visualize her understanding.

It is easy to offer others words of encouragement or instruction, "relax" or "rise to warrior 2." It is much more challenging to take them on the journey to arrive there. I found in my reflection of this conversation, and the prior conversations with mentors, that taking the easy route has lesser outcomes. Perhaps, it even has the opposite effect.

The following are lengthy translations of what I mean when I say "relax," so that in my future teachings I am able to appropriately address students.

"Relax your face" = Bring awareness to the space between your brows. Are they huddled together? Can you imagine the air you breathe traveling up your nose directly toward your forehead and, with your exhale, blow your eyebrows apart. Now, shift your focus to your mouth. Open it wide, shut it tight, and then discover the hinges of the jaw as they shift slightly ajar to a place of comfort. Lick your lips. Allow sensation and breath to move through parted lips if that feels good, or return the breath to the nose.

"Relax your mind" = We may not stop the flow of thought today. Try as we may to dam the river, the thoughts may begin to trickle past the barriers as we begin to meditate. I invite you to become the observer to those thoughts. As they come in, see them and place them on a cloud. Let them float past your view, and if the sky becomes clear -- wander forward into the depth of blue.

"Relax your body" = Beginning at the top of the head, scan the body for places of tension. Perhaps they are muscular: do you feel the contraction that persists despite your sedentary state? Perhaps it is manifesting in your brain, heart or stomach? Does a feeling within call your awareness away from the present moment? There may be multiple places where the body holds itself -- a hug of awareness. Allow yourself to feel this embrace with a deep inhale. As you release into exhale, imagine the grip unfurling or the hug releasing. Maybe draw movement into the area or place a hand over it in acknowledgement, as you continue to breathe the hug to and fro the body. Eventually, find a stillness that feels welcoming and soft.

In softness,


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