I am not a military person. My understanding of military protocols is extremely limited. However, I was pondering the phrase “At Ease” and thinking how we could all use this military command in everyday life.
My awesome brother-in-law, Kevin, is a chaplain in the Air Force. He clued me in to the various commands and what they mean (haven’t we all seen these in movies?): Attention! Parade Rest, At Ease, and Rest.
A-Ten-Shun!! We can all imagine a soldier snapping to full attention with chest out, shoulders back, head up, eyes forward, feet together at 45 degree angle. Not a posture you’d want to stand in for very long, but very impressive.
Parade Rest: A transitional posture, where feet are shoulder width, hands clasped behind the back.
At Ease: Another degree of relaxation from parade rest. Now the upper body can relax.
Rest: Freedom of movement.
Although these might be formal commands used in parade formation, inspections and other military exercises, we operate in life like this. Different levels of muscle tension accompany different activities. Moments of challenge and stress will naturally cause us to contract muscles a little harder, for longer, unless we are tuned into our bodies and regulate how much tension we actually need. Tasks requiring a lot of concentration also usually translate to more muscle tension. The other day I found myself squeezing a glass bottle to get a drop of essential oil to come out. How ridiculous is it to squeeze a glass bottle? When I became aware, I realized every muscle from the fingertips to the hand up the arm and into the shoulder were recruited in the effort. All that was needed was patience in that particular case.
Our level of muscle tension is held in our brains. The central nervous system is in charge of muscle contractions. So, we can master our muscle tension with consciousness and awareness. We can decide to lower our muscle tension when we think it’s too high. Have you ever been driving and noticed your shoulders are up by your ears? You were concentrating so hard on traffic and all the other lovely drivers around you that you accidentally tensed up. Arriving at your destination, you might possibly feel stiff and exhausted, partly because of that excess muscle tension.
In massage I can feel a huge difference when someone can consciously relax a part of their body that is otherwise holding a lot of tension, for whatever reason. And when the tension is consciously let go, a lot more work can be accomplished. Sometimes it’s comical, like people who “talk” with their hands. If they are in the middle of telling me a story while I’m massaging their arms, I can feel their arm muscles are anything but “at ease.” The arms are engaged and “helping” tell the story by being tensed, flexed and stiff.
Experiment with muscle tension and bringing your awareness to what level of muscle tension you are carrying at different times during the day. You might be surprised when you find yourself at “attention” when you could be at “rest.”
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