Footloose: Because Forced Relaxation Does Not Work. Just keep it Loose.


It doesn’t have to be just your feet.  You can keep it all loose!  The principle is simple.  We acknowledge that there is stress and competition in the world.  We experience the stress, and rather than force ourselves to relax (which causes more stress), we try to keep our body loose. 

A little over a year ago, I was training boxing technique and often sparring.  I was not finding the kind of success I wanted.  My arms and legs were heavy, my movement was slow, and my punch combinations and defense lacked the fluidity I was so determined to acquire.

One day, while sparring someone well beyond my skill level and trying to force speedier punches than my tight back, arm, and leg muscles could accommodate in a healthy way, I tore the Latissimus muscle in my back. 

In the 6 weeks I had to take off (Doctor’s orders), I was disheartened and spent time with two of my favorite boxing coaches and best friends, Eric and Sean.  They did what I could not.  They acknowledged that sparring led to anxiety that we all face (all boxers get nervous in the ring), and that my response to bear down and tighten up (to tough it out) had hindered rather than helped me.  They suggested that I accept the feelings, and try to be loose. 

In a telling moment, I came back to the ring after this hiatus and Sean noticed from the corner that I was tightening up.  I could her his voice clearly, “We’re loose.  We are so loose.”  Eric said, “Keep it loose, like we do with the pads.”  Good boxing is based on trust. Your corner is responsible for your life, so you trust and respect them.  I listened, my body loosened, and the speed, movement, and focus were all there.  My sparring problems were gone, and we began to have a lot of success.

If I can trust Eric and Sean, when my keister is on the line, maybe you will trust them too!  When you find yourself in traffic, or at the office, at school, training, with family, friends or just by yourself and your body begins to tighten up.  Acknowledge that is the body’s natural response to stress.  Honor those feelings.  Remind yourself that you come by them naturally.  You did not summon these feelings.  Let those feelings pass through you naturally, and give yourself permission to be loose.  Let the air out of your diaphragm.  Notice the parts of your body where you feel tightness, and soften around them.  Smile with your eyes (this will relax your face).  Remember that you are not trying to drive a way the feelings, you are merely acknowledging that suffering is taking place, and because suffering is taking place it is worthy of kindness.

If it helps imagine someone you love and trust in only a supportive way saying, “just be loose.”  Loose or not loose, at the very least you will be reminded that you are very loved and the people who love you do not require but rather wish you well being.

Protect your keister and be kind to yourself!

365 Days of Kindness.  Self Compassion.  Day 5.  In the Books.