3 Tips for Releasing Hidden Tension in your Body. ~ Carla Ardito

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There are three subtle tensions that can be hiding in your body and causing shallow breathing.

Learn how to let them go with these three effective tips:

1. The Slightly Tight Ass.

I don’t mean to be rude, it’s just that your butt muscles were not intended to be tense 24/7, and believe it or not, a good number of us are going through life with a tense butt and we don’t even know it! Any tension in the gluteus shortens our breathing. It’s one of the ways our body gets stuck in “fight or flight” mode.

Don’t believe me? Go ahead and try it. Grip your buttocks muscles and then try to take a deep breath. Our diaphragm muscle is not free to descend into the body as long as our butt cheeks are tight. If your butt is even slightly tense, you are unknowingly preventing your body from breathing well.

Tip #1:  Close your eyes and actively try to completely release your butt muscles. Imagine that the deepest layers of muscle are relaxing; the ones right near your butt bones. It may help to visualize these muscles as a fisted hand that is slowly unfurling each finger until it becomes an open palm. Visualizations are a great way of connecting the mind to the body.

If you can discover and let go of any tension in your seat, your inhalations will become deeper and fuller.

2. The Clamped Jaw.

Jaw tension is a syndrome that plagues many of us.

Unfortunately, tension in the jaw is always accompanied by tension in the throat and the back of the neck. It’s a fact that even our smiles can be a form of jaw tension. According to the book The Naked Ape, by Desmond Morris, the baring of teeth in simians is a fear response. Even when we are nervously smiling and not really feeling happy, we create jaw tension.

When muscles connected to joints get tense, we can find ourselves, once again, inadvertently stuck in our “fight or flight” response. One of the main reasons jaw tension creates such a problem for our breathing is that any time the upper body becomes locked, so too does the lower body. Our cranial and sacral nerves signal our parasympathetic system; the system that tries to help our bodies get through the “fight or flight” response with as little damage as possible. If you grit your teeth you will feel a corresponding sensation of tension in your lower body.

The good news here is that if we can begin to release our jaw tension then subsequently the rest of our body will relax. We can reverse the negative domino effect, bring back peace and restore deeper, fuller breathing.

Tip #2:  I have found that the most effective way to soften the jaw hinge is to imagine that the muscles from the temples to the jawbone have gone completely limp. Ideally you want to create a feeling of complete softness that pervades the entire head, in particular, the back of the neck, the jaw and the throat. If you’ve ever received Novocain at the dentist, then that sensation of complete and utter numbness will come in handy.

The idea here is to allow your jaw hinge to literally be hanging from your skull and then observe your breathing body. Observe any differences in your breath’s ability to affect movement in your lower body. Gradually bring your jaw back to a more normal position but without the tension.

3. The Heavy Heart.

Your heart resides under your breastbone and this area of the body is very susceptible to emotional wounding. When something takes our breath away, it has either offended our soul or reminded it of its origins. The holding of the breath from emotional wounding can cause a permanent tension in our chest. Even with all the attention being given to deep breathing these days, I find that many people are trying, but not succeeding, because of hidden tension in the chest cavity.

Our chest contains our most precious internal organ. When we feel emotionally wounded, our breathing becomes shallow. If we were never afforded the opportunity to release that hurt, then it’s likely that our breathing is still being affected by that moment in time.

Tip #3:  Place your hand over your heart and let out a long sigh. Sighs are exhalations that soothe, and are wonderful for restoring movement to our chest cavity. It’s not just the belly that should be moving when we breathe. Even our most gentle breathing, as when we are resting or wrapped up in a good book, should involve subtle movements throughout the body. Good breathing is a holistic experience.

Finding our hidden tensions and releasing them facilitates health by allowing all of your muscles, joints and organs to reap the benefits of breathing well.

When a body breathes well, the natural movements that occur, promote oxygen-rich blood flow to each and every cell and in turn keep our muscles and joints strong and supple.

With a little attention and practice, our breathing is really the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. The difference between breathing and breathing well is the difference between being alive and truly living life.


Also, stop doing this when you’re stressed:

Relephant Read: 

The Art of Conscious Relaxation 


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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Sue Clark/Flickr

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

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Carla Ardito

Carla Melucci Ardito is a New York City based yoga teacher who has been helping people breathe better for over 20 years. She teaches a breathing workshop at The Integral Yoga Institute and can be heard from time to time on the Sirius Radio show “Doctor Radio.” Questions about breathing and upcoming workshops can be sent to [email protected]. You can follow Carla on Twitter @breathguru or at her Facebook page, Breathing Lessons named for the app she developed to guide people through the basic principles that comprise healthy breathing patterns. For more information go to thebreathingschool.com.

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anonymous Sep 17, 2015 11:03am

Thank you for sharing this. I tried all three as I read and felt like a new person by the end of the article. No wonder I have strayed from my desk job to becoming a yoga teacher! That said, there is a lot that can be achieved by sitting and working online sometimes. I'll be keeping this helpful article in mind as I proceed. Cheers!

    anonymous Oct 22, 2015 4:05pm

    Thank you so much for your comment! What I love the most about it is the mentioning of feeling the effects of the words – this is precisely how I designed the app. Raising awareness is the number one job of a teacher. Great response! So insightful!

anonymous Nov 3, 2014 6:58am

Great piece, Carlla! Keep up the great work.

anonymous Nov 2, 2014 12:20pm

Thank you for the wonderful complement! I hope you will check out my Facebook page and website for more good information.

anonymous Oct 22, 2014 3:07pm

This article is the simplest, most useful one I ever found here on EJ that actually shares accessible tips for instantly improving wellbeing. Thank you!

anonymous Sep 5, 2014 11:45pm

Wonderful article and tips, thanks! Just a little correction under 2. The Clamped Jaw: "Our cranial and sacral nerves signal our sympathetic** system…"

    anonymous Sep 6, 2014 7:52pm

    Hi Kailyn,

    Here is my source –

    Parasympathetic nervous system
    Your parasympathetic division is subdivided into the cranial and sacral sections.
    •The cranial section consists of the cranial nerves III, VII, IX, X which are located in the lower part of your brain, your brain stem.
    •The sacral section is made up of autonomic nerves from the sacral section of your spinal cord, the S2, S3 and S4 levels.

    Sympathetic nervous system
    The sympathetic system consists of nerves that are located in the thoracic and lumbar region of the spinal cord between T1-L2 levels.

anonymous Sep 3, 2014 6:30pm

Excellent article … compliments.

Ashtanga namaskar position is great for butt tension … done with some changes to the standard. the hips should be raised only to the normal lower back arch and the forehead should be on the ground so that the cervical is also relaxed. the complete body is relaxed … breath gets directed to the hips/butt which releases the tension in the muscles and then one can go deeper to work with lower back and sacrum … working with the sacrum and the tailbone in this pose is really beneficial for the nervous system and for all systems for the lower body including sciatica etc … try it … use the breath to release all the tension in this very important area. om from india

anonymous Sep 3, 2014 6:26pm

Dear Carla,
This is likely the helpful, insightful, and intelligent thing I have read about breathing and tension. I am putting your 3 tips into practice right now and promise to continue doing every day.
Thank you so very much. Blessings.

    anonymous Sep 7, 2014 5:25pm

    Thank you for your feedback!