Feeling Cold, Excess Tension, and the Alexander Technique — 37 Comments

  1. I am actually freezing in this damp rainy Louisiana evening as I read your blog and feeling my shoulders and neck tense. Your blog Saved me! As I breathe into my joints and relax my shoulders and begin to allow myself to type using different muscles, I feel like I’m coming back to myself. I absolutely love the insight that it is our response to cold rather than, say, a draft itself, that causes the soreness.

      • Tensing does make you colder. I used to play paddle tennis outside in ten degree weather and got cold and tense up. Then I learned to really make sure my core was warm by layering and to think of my blood flowing down to warm my fingers and relaxing. It worked!

  2. I am very sensitive to the wind and the cold (which is contracting by it’s very nature) and try to avoid being in it as much as possible, so I admire your daily walks. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, cold is considered a pathogen that can invade the body. Shivering keeps the blood moving while tensing the muscles would have the opposite effect. I will try to remember to take notice my level of muscle tension the next time I’m out in the cold (no pun intended!)

    Maureena Bivins, PhD
    Acupuncture & Somatic Therapy

    Curious. Committed. Compassionate.
    What do you look for in a health care provider?

    • Yes – notice the tension, and see if all of it is necessary or helpful. It’s an interesting experiment. I think, for the most part, with our warm clothes and central heating, a lot of it is unnecessary.

  3. Oh, that’s a great idea. We don’t get that kind of cold out here but being closer to the ocean we do get cold if we don’t have the right jacket or sweater at nights. I will definitely try that out. I hope I remember!

    Julieanne Case
    Always from the heart!

    Reconnecting you to your Original Blueprint, Your Essence, Your Joy| Healing you from the Inside Out |Reconnective Healing | The Reconnection| Reconnective Art |

  4. I don’t even have to think about it, Imogen; I know I’m a “scruncher!” Living in NYC, I like to joke that I’m cold from October through June. My muscles never fully relax until it’s close to 80 degrees. Thanks for these reminders to stop scrunching, especially my shoulders and neck. I completely agree with you that it’s not the cold that harms our bodies, but rather our reaction to it.

    • If you notice yourself scrunching up in the cold, see if you can let go, even a little bit. Also, if you’re really cold, a more appropriate response might be to put on an extra sweater or pair of socks, for instance, or even turning the heat up if you are inside. Save your muscles, and let your clothes do the work of keeping you warm!!

  5. Lol- love Cory’s definition of being a ‘scruncher’ as that is a great definition and one that fits me perfectly. I am often cold and have to physically stop myself from scrunching. I don’t know if it is a habit or whether it is just in direct response to being cold. I am so glad I read this as I can now be much more aware of what I am doing and when and physically relax the muscles. Being on the computer already scrunches those neck and shoulder muscles and being cold just adds to it. The more aware, the better! thanks.

    Candace Davenport ~ Little Books with a Big Message

    • I think there is probably a natural physiological response to cold that makes us tighten up. However, I believe we have also “learned” this response so that now it is a habit (we may also, as children, have mimicked adults scrunching up in the cold, who knows) – and maybe we aren’t truly assessing what’s necessary and what’s not. The great thing about awareness is that it opens the door to explore this and see what it necessary and what is not. With our warm clothes and central heating, I think much of the tension is not necessary at all. I also know, because of my past neck problems, if I spend long periods tightening up, I will definitely be hurting later!

  6. Cold. Hmm, I think we had some of that a couple of months ago. It’s been in the 70s/80s, colder at night, but I run the heater, have a ton of throw blankets, and a hot water pot always warm, lol. I know that when I get cold, I tend to cross my arms and hug my body. I haven’t noticed soreness after being out in the cold. I have soreness because I don’t sit/stand/lay down properly, and I’m aware of it. Even now, I’m curled up sideways on the couch with the laptop on the end table. I’ll have a sore neck because I know it’s going out of alignment.

    • Have you tried propping yourself up in a more upright position on the couch, maybe even putting your laptop on a cushion on your knee so you don’t have to scrunch up as much? Just an idea… 🙂

  7. I’m sure I do hunch up the way you describe–I felt myself doing it just in reading your description of the cold! I hold a lot of tension in my shoulders in general, so cold only exacerbates that response. The more I read about Alexander Technique, the more I could see it being really helpful to me. I was just writing today about wanting 2012 to be a year where I balanced physical exertion with something that embodies rest and release. You’ve got my interest!

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer
    Personal-Professional Balance Through Writing

  8. The answer is yes…tight muscles to produce heat to protect from the cold – a totally natural body response. Tightening muscles is how we produce a fever to fight an infection. Interesting experiment to relax the muscles to avoid the tension – but what about staying warm? LOL! Love your body awareness!
    Brandy 🙂

    • I think you’re right – the tight muscles do, in some ways, protect from the cold – but I also think, as I said in another comment, that we have also “learned” this response and are doing it in a more habitual way often, rather than it being truly necessary – or certainly more exaggerated than necessary. I know if I scrunch up my neck for any length of time and will be sorry… so avoiding any unnecessary tension is key! I prefer to let my warm clothes do the work of keeping me warm 🙂

  9. Absolutely right on! Whenever I feel my feet get cold, sure enough I’m tensing my kneecaps and calves – and undoing them will make my feet get warmer. Didn’t even realize that kneecaps can have that effect – but sure enough, they do. Funny, isn’t it?

    • Very interesting (and great awareness!). Do you think it’s because letting go of the tension in your kneecaps/calves helps the circulation of blood to your feet, resulting in them actually warming up?

  10. I can remember many times when my shoulders and back would be sore – sometimes immediately after being cold, sometimes not until the next day. For me, it is absolutely true that being cold causes me to tighten up. Your tips on how to manage the cold without the tension are great – especially today as we are expecting snow!

  11. I think that could be so true, that we tense up from the cold and then we get stiff. I think thats what happens to me. I know when I am cold, my body tenses up to almost a stressful way.

  12. I’ve recently been noticing that it’s not solely my shoulders & collar bones raising up while my neck scrunches. The scrunching/collapsing causes the front of my rib structure to cave in; that part of my back to round over; and my low back to continue the process of rounding under. This also carries on through my leg joints—flexion, flexion, flexion!

    Then again, it’s no only a reaction to “cold” that can bring on this scrunching. Take a look at anyone in front of a computer……. At least with the “cold” I can layer an extra muffler around my neck, pull my hat over my ears, and dream of Fiji.

  13. Pingback:Snow, Snow, Snow… and the Challenges to my Equilibrium | Body Intelligence

  14. Superb website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any user
    discussion forums that cover the same topics talked about in this article?
    I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get responses from other experienced individuals that
    share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

  15. Ya, mindfulness, as simple as it is, is really powerful. I suspect it’s just the tip of the icebirg though. What I’m trying to do is control my body so that I can make myself warmer at will.

    Socrates from Way Of The Peaceful Warrior taught Dan how to do this so there must be a way.

    Here’s the quote:

    “When combined with intense concentration and control of specific muscle groups, this breathing exercise heated my body up like a sauna and allowed me to remain comfortable outside no matter what the temperature.”


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