Relax your face.

“Hey, you!  Yeah, you with the scrunched up face.  The one with the furrowed brow and the wrinkled forehead.  Relax your face!”

I tell my clients to relax their face all of the time during training sessions.  Not only do they look that much more calm and collected but they are no longer wasting energy.  Holding tension in your face is a product of what I like to call “neurological spillover”.  

That is, we are working so hard to perform a task, maybe it’s a squat or a press, we are sending such a strong signal from our central nervous system to the muscles performing that movement that sometimes the signal gets picked up elsewhere in the body.  We activate muscles that should not be involved.

It’s a matter of tension and relaxation.  

We want tension and rigidity where it is needed, not where it isn’t.  Otherwise it’s just wasted energy. It is inefficient.  But if we can have tension only where we need it and nowhere else we end up using the exact amount of effort necessary to complete the task.  That’s seamless.  That’s effective.  That, to me, is beautiful.

So when it comes to your exercise pay more attention to your body and see where you are hanging on to extra tension.  Often times it’s your face.  We scowl.  We scrunch.  Maybe it’s in your shoulders where some overactive traps are trying to do more than they need to.  

Find the tension in your body and then be selective.  Build tension where you need it, not where you don’t.

Here’s the thing though…we do this all day long.

Notice your coworkers while they’re working hard on a project.  Is their brow furrowed? Are their eyes squinted? Feel what happens in your shoulders when you’re under a tight deadline.  See what happens to your stomach when you hear some emotionally upsetting news.  

We manifest tension in the body all day long.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, it’s quite natural.  The question, though, is are we hanging on to tension that we don’t need?  

Is there some neurological spillover that is happening to us every day and we’re simply unaware of it?  Probably.  

The first task is to recognize it.  Start paying attention to your body throughout the day.  Where is there more tension than there should be?  Do you need to relax your face?  (You probably do.)  

The second step is using some type of technique to release that tension.  If you need to relax your face it can be as easy as taking a deep breath (try to imagine the sensation of a smile spreading across your face, releasing yourbrow, and relaxing your eyes).  Perhaps you can stretch.  Perhaps you can use some type of self release technique like foam rolling.  Or, learn how to do a body scan

Find a way to become aware of the tension that manifests during the day.  Try out body scanning to release that tension.  It’s really good for you. 

What’s not good for you is being inefficient.  You might be wasting energy and putting more stress on your body than is needed.  And that’s not cool.  

So start by paying attention.  Start by noticing.  Find where you’re holding tension.  First and foremost, you might want to relax your face.


- Colin

Colin Van Ertstress, training