Toughness Is Tension

I know when my body’s tension is leading the show. I feel insatiably reactive.

My muscles grip the need to succeed or survive. And when successful, I experience this toughness as strength.

The harder I push the tougher I get. I applaud my toughness in one moment… but judge it’s limitations in another. Problem is, I can never be tough enough.

You know those moments when, no matter how hard you try, you can’t satisfy. Maybe it was a punishing or needy parent, perhaps it’s now a demanding boss or client? Through my years of dance training my ballet teachers’ tough-love approach would riddle my body with tension. The more I tried to be perfect the more my body’s natural precision was lost. I realized, I don’t want to be tough, I want to be strong, and their toughness need not become mine.

Toughness is an internal sinewy web built on tension. It shrinks the empty spaces in our physicality; it’s like being deflated from the inside out. It misaligns us physically and misdirects us emotionally.

Our web of tension carries the weight of our life’s story. It’s been blindly woven from emotional disappointments or trauma, as well as, deliberately constructed to chase success (physically, mentally or emotionally).

The latter—chasing success—thought to be the drive that motivates you into your greatness, is often mistaken as prized ambition. But chasing isn’t a drive to thrive, it’s a drive to survive… it’s a fear-based reaction.

When the fear of failing is driving me to exhaustion I use this exercise:

  • Lie horizontal. Let gravity blanket you. Breathe.
  • Feel the Earth under you and sky above you together cocooning you.
  • Let your muscles surrender their grip, give your bones their weight; continue surrendering until you experience your bones and muscle as separate systems.

The former— emotional distress—is a fear-based distraction. Emotions cause our body to concave and contort into frozen pockets that we are often unaware of. This distorts our posture and disorients our perspective, but we experience it as normal.

If confusion and uncertainty are blocking me from being my best I try this exercise:

  • Stand erect. Let gravity flow through you. Breathe.
  • Feel your feet and pelvis heavy on the Earth and your heart and crown open up toward the sky.
  • Motionlessly let your bones extend out from your center of gravity (low abdominal) into a relaxed stretch between earth and sky. Experience muscle tension easing as gravity aligning you; continue this quiet stretch until you begin to feel held up.

In both these exercises you are unraveling the web of tension that lives in your compressed joints.

Strength is the flow of energy; tension is the stagnation of it.

To experience your strength’s inherent flow be still, breathe space into your body and feel strength’s force irrigate your sinews. Only then can you truly connect with it.

To go beyond surviving and thrive, stop chasing and stand in your fear!

When we do, we experience the strength we already have. We experience being strong enough!


Please accept my free video: How to Surrender Tension in 8-minutes, as an introduction to my book/3D-video package: The Art of Strength: Sculpt the Body ~ Train the Mind.