The single most important component of all meditation practices and soft style martial arts is Breathwork. If Breathwork is the most important component, then relaxation/looseness and sensitivity come second and third respectively.
It is Breathwork that can facilitate a greater relaxation in the body and the psyche. This relaxation in turn makes it easier to be sensitive to one’s internal state as well as one’s external environment and present-moment experience.
An awareness of one’s breath and its depth (or shallowness) can act as a cue to use the breath to relax the body and release any tension. At first the tension in the body that is released is the tension that is most readily-apparent to one’s awareness, but as this surface tension is released, deeper and deeper layers of tension are revealed. These layers are in turn released through the use of breath and attention.
Once all layers of tension have been released, the body achieves a certain freedom of movement coupled with a sort of psychological flexibility rooted in inner calm. This ideal physical and mental state must be maintained through vigilance. This vigilance involves a monitoring of any physical/psychological tension that may creep in. If any such tension and fear sneaks its way into one’s being, it needs to be released immediately using the tools of Breathwork and meditative present-moment awareness.
The difficult thing is to be aware of our internal psychological and somatic states while in the midst of daily life. Our attention often gets hijacked by the external world or our internal fear-based musings about our lives and problems. A portion of our awareness must always be scanning our body for any tension. These zones of bodily tension points to zones of holding fear and stress. These areas of fear and stress are held by our musculature in order to protect us from feeling these “negative” feelings. Once the tension in these tightened muscles is released, we are forced to deal with a potential flood of the negative feelings and buried memories that we had stuffed down so deep in order not to have to deal with them.
This flood of negative emotions and memories can be mitigated with an attitude of non-attachment, such as one may develop during meditation, or through a greater focus on one’s breath, and perhaps as an adjunct, even therapy would be of some use. This path to wholeness through focusing and releasing our hidden traumas is not a path that is easy, but the reward of greater inner peace and freedom of movement – a movement that is fluid and graceful – is worth it.