Have you ever set out to scratch for a few hours and ended your session much sooner than planned? Mentally, it seemed you were there. You had lots of scratches to work on and many ideas were flowing, yet physically you couldn’t persevere.
You were likely pretty disappointed because your mind didn’t shut off, but your body did. What’s worse is you were probably unaware of the true reason behind your apparent lack of stamina. Since you were not aware of the real cause, you likely went back with the “Try, try again” attitude, expecting that if you forced yourself to regularly practice long hours you’d eventually be able to endure it.
Unfortunately this is the wrong approach and will only lead to either causing unnecessary exhaustion or cutting down on your scratch practice time. There are many reasons why one’s endurance may suffer, but the key reason behind such an issue is excess tension throughout your body.
The Tension Antidote
Tension can be equated to stress. When we are overly stressed we tense up. Our neck gets stiff. Our shoulders tighten. Our back gets sore. These are all symptoms of stress and shouldn’t be neglected.
When we seek to combat stress we do so through activities of relaxation. We might take a nap, drink a cup of warm tea or meditate. Regardless of what you may choose to do when faced with lots of stress, we all have the same objective. We want to get relief.
Tension is no different. It can also be dealt with through relaxation. However, if you’re in the midst of a scratch session, you’re not going to just stop the moment you feel overly tense and take a nap. Thus you must learn subtle ways of relaxing that tension when scratching so you may continue for as long as needed.
The First Step Is Awareness
Before you can remove unnecessary tension, you must become aware of it. Since this is not something that typically comes naturally, I will take you through a quick exercise. Stand as you normally would when you are scratching. Squeeze your right shoulder muscle and hold it for 2 to 3 seconds. Notice the feeling of tension this gives you. Also take note of other areas that feel tense when you do this, as your shoulder will not be the only area affected. Next, completely relax and take note of how that feels as well. Now repeat this exercise with all other muscle groups.
When you are finished familiarizing yourself with the presence of tension throughout your body, you now have a working model to go by the next time you scratch. In fact I recommend that, time permitting, you go to your set up after completing the exercise and scratch.
Focus while scratching on how your body feels. Are you experiencing any feelings similar to the ones felt during the tension portion of the exercise? If so don’t worry about fixing it yet. Just be very aware of it and know that you are much closer to increasing your stamina than you were moments ago.
The Art Of Letting Go
Now you are ready to start releasing tension as it crops up. Since you are more aware of how unnecessary tension feels your task is easier. Unfortunately, tension can be a relentless pest and so you must be extremely vigilant of its presence.
Think back to the tension exercise at the moment you released the tension. You are shooting for a similar feeling when releasing tension while scratching. Since you’re not standing still as you should’ve been during the exercise, you might be required to adjust your body a little bit. This could mean lifting your chin up if your neck is craning too far forward, dropping your shoulder if it is positioned upwards towards your ear, having a wider stance if your feet are too close together, etc.
The Jellyfish Syndrome
You must be warned that it is possible to over relax. While it is true that too much tension can cause discomfort and weaken endurance, too little tension can be just as detrimental. When you are too relaxed it becomes difficult to execute much of anything. In a case like that, all the stamina in the world is going to have little value because you will just sound sloppy and non expressive.
Too Little, Too Late
While it is good to be aware of and fix issues of excessive tension, it does not always equal out to increased stamina. Tension will often creep into our system without us realizing it at the moment it happens. By the time you become aware and diffuse it, you’re body has already grown more weary than it would have if you had addressed the problem when it began.
This doesn’t mean that you are doomed to never endure extended scratch sessions. It simply means you’ll have to work on your relaxation technique long term, continually increasing your awareness while scratching all the while. The best news of all is that eventually this will become second nature. This is great because once the process is natural you won’t have to cloud your thoughts with issues of tension and can instead focus on having fun when you scratch and expressing yourself.