top of page

RELAX!! What Does That Even MEAN?

shoulders 1

I don’t like negative instructions, but sometimes they seem to work better than a positive one. Leaving the pelvis out of it for the moment, try something yourself whilst reading this: 1) Relax your shoulders. Now try: 2) Stop holding on to your shoulders.

It might only be me, but the second instruction seems to add another dimension and go deeper. The first instruction is active, whereas the second one is more passive.

Relaxation – the mechanics


So where does that leave us? The only thing you can do is to feel inside yourself in order to release the ends of the relevant muscle(s).

What does ‘relax’ mean?

If you look up the definition of the words ‘relax’ and ‘lax’ (the prefix ‘re-‘ just means ‘back’ or ‘again’), you end up with various words that may or may not help. I’ve found, when teaching, that a description that works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.

Sponges and stress balls

Hand holding natural sponge on white background.

A tense muscle is therefore one that is squeezing together or contracting, for example a squeezed sponge or stress ball.


Finding what works for you

It comes down to language; words will trigger totally different perceptions and perspectives, depending on experience. If you apply some or all of the bulleted points below to your shoulders or neck (easier than the pelvis), there’s a good chance that some words will work better for you than others. Using the first three bullet points as examples: 1) Loosen your shoulders, 2) Open your shoulders, 3) Release your shoulders … and so on… i.e. working your way down the descriptive words below. If you suffer from any kind of headache, definitely try the neck as well.


  1. Loose

  2. Open

  3. Release

  4. Deficient in firmness

  5. Not stringent

  6. Not tense

  7. Not strict

  8. Not rigid

  9. Without rigor

  10. Lacking precision

  11. Lacking definition

  12. Not taut

  13. Not firm

  14. Not compact

  15. Slack (a lax rope)

  16. Languid

  17. Relieve from tension or strain

  18. Less compact or dense

  19. Set free

  20. Soften

  21. Reduce

  22. Widen

  23. Decrease tension

  24. Spread apart (a lax flower cluster)

A couple of observations

  1. Making yourself feel ‘heavy’ can help – try making your shoulders feel heavy.

  2. ‘Playing dead’: You might have done this as a child – you make yourself as heavy as possible to avoid being picked up off the floor.

  3. I’ve noticed that when people think they’re relaxed their shoulders, they can in fact let go even more. This becomes obvious if I put my hands on their shoulders after they think they’ve fully relaxed them. But you can even do this yourself without someone’s help; release your shoulders, and then feel what it would be like if a pair of warm hands were rested on them.

Comfortable with what we know

Qigong relaxation 1

_________________________________________________________________________________________ James Drewe teaches Tai Chi and Qigong in both London and in Kent and online. Details of weekly classes both live and online can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Tai Chi on one Saturday a month.

CONTACT: Email: Phone: 07836-710281 _________________________________________________________________________________________

#qigong #tension #jamesdrewe #taiji #destress #loosening #stress #taijiquan #release #posture #taichi #relaxation #relax #chikung

9 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page