BRACE YOURSELF! Or not.
What do you think of when you hear those words? What happens in your body?
If you are like me, you feel tension. Maybe your heart races a little. Or there is tightness in your chest, stomach, or spine.
Are your eyes hard or soft? Perhaps you are glaring, instead of gazing gently. What about your teeth and jaw? I’m guessing they are clenched.
Take a moment now and let go.
Allow your shoulders to drop.
Rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth to open your jaw.
Listen for the beat of your heart and thank it.
Find just a tiny bit of space between each vertebra and open.
Ahhh. That’s better.
Bracing! It’s something we do metaphorically, physically, emotionally and spiritually whenever we want to protect ourselves from something we don’t want to happen. Bracing is what we do to attempt to stabilize ourselves when we are unsure. It is how we try to support ourselves when things feel shaky.Bracing is what we do to attempt to stabilize ourselves when we are unsure. It is how we try to support ourselves when things feel shaky.
But does it work?
Have you ever been in a powerboat going fast in choppy water? Each wave can feel back-breaking when you brace for it. But if you loosen your back and soften your shoulders, you experience the waves as they arrive with far less stress to your body. It can even be fun!
Have you ever ridden a horse? If you brace against the movement, you bump up and down in the saddle - painful for the horse and rider. Watch skilled riders however, and you’ll see they keep their back and hips loose, moving with the horse.
And skiers going over bumps and moguls? Their knees are fluid and backs are loose and strong. Not ramrod straight braced against the impact.
Bracing can slow us down, be unproductive, and make the experience really uncomfortable.
I was working with a client yesterday who has begun getting migraine headaches. This is new for her.
I inquired about what she feels in her body when she notices the first indication that a migraine is coming on? “I tense up. I get frustrated about all I won’t be able to get done. I brace against it”.
There is that word. Brace.
I asked her, “And how does bracing serve you?”
She paused, reflected and responded, “It brings more stress on my body and mind and then I have to do exactly what I didn’t want to do – lay in a dark, quiet room and rest until it passes”.
Hmmm. “What would be different without the bracing?”
“I’d get the message sooner and just go lay down and relax”.
“Do you think there may be a message in the migraine for you?” I asked.
A laugh. “That I need to lay down in quiet. That I need to rest more often”.
“Perhaps. Next time you feel it coming, instead of bracing maybe just ask ‘what is your message for me?’ Go lay down and allow what is going to happen to happen – without adding tension”.
I suffered from migraines for many years so I know that while this may not be easy to do, it is not more difficult or painful than bracing against it. And it is certainly more peaceful.
Later in the call the conversation topic turned to her work. My client shared about one team of people she must work with all the time on projects. In the past she has struggled to get this team to be open to her ideas and to complete their part on time.
“After our call last time I realized I carried an expectation that interacting with them would be hard and unproductive so I entered into every conversation from that place. Then I remembered our session and tried being open to outcomes. Entering without expectation. When I made my request I was shocked when the guy I had to work with got energized and totally on board”.
I had to ask, “So previously, were you bracing against the outcome you feared you would get?”
“Yes” she answered with a knowing chuckle.
“And so when you let go of the bracing, you got a totally different outcome?”
“Yup. I did”
Where in your life are you bracing against what you most fear might happen?
How is that working for you?
My good friend and yoga teacher Kris Beal is always encouraging me to find a little more space. To explore where in my body I can do less work. Where I can let go… just a little bit more.
Over the next few days look for where you “brace” – in communication, in expectation, in relationships, and physically in your body - and then let go…just a little. And see what feels different.