Have you ever learned something new, only to have it pop up over and over again in all kinds of circumstances? That's how my week has gone. In my karate training, I have lots of power. Power is not my problem. Relaxing is my problem. Especially when the sensei is watching, I get so tense I'm wearing my shoulders for earrings. Not surprisingly, this has always been my issue with running as well - carrying a lot of unnecessary tension in my upper body.
Funny thing is, I coach swimmers and one of the main tenets of swimming is you have to be able to relax your recovering side while all of the muscles in your stroking arm are tense. You have to be able to relax your feet and ankles while your hamstrings and glutes do the hard work of kicking. So I should be able to apply that knowledge of simultaneously relaxing and tensing in other circumstances right?
Except that it's really really hard to do. Karate is humbling for me. One of the reasons that I love it is that it teaches me on a daily basis how hard it is to learn this stuff. And that's how hard swimming is for many of the people I'm coaching. Swimming always came naturally for me. I was one of those kids that people called "a fish". I firmly believe I was a dolphin in a former life, that I've always lived underwater until now. That's why I'm so clumsy on land. And maybe that's why my feet are the size of flippers.
So my lesson this week is to relax in between each block, kick, and punch, and only tense my muscles at the last possible second. It doesn't sound all that easy, and trust me it's not as easy as it sounds. Our muscles are so tied together in our brains that undoing those connections of which muscle to tense and which to relax takes time and some mental effort. At the Chi Running seminar this weekend, I also got a great refresher on relaxing my ankles and feet while running, something I struggle with more than any other aspect of Chi Running.
If I think about it, there is also a great application in the rest of life. There are times when tension and action is necessary, and times in between when we need to relax. If we fill all of that time with activity and stress, everything suffers including the things we want to be able to do well. We need the Yin as well as the Yang. Just as I struggle with relaxing the non-necessary muscles, I also struggle with allowing myself time to just be, time without busyness and action. How do you get yourself to relax, either mentally or physically?
The Ironmom Extra Mile: More reading on the Han Dynasty Synthesis and the meaning of Yin and Yang within Taosim at WSU's Chinese Philosophies site