At my very terrific voice class on Friday we had a great conversation about recognizing tension. One of the first things pointed out is that a beginning student may have trouble even knowing what tension is. When starting out, you need to develop a level of awareness about your own body. Then, as your self-awareness develops, you can begin to understand where you are holding tensions that are new and different, and eventually you work your way towards the deeper tensions - the habitual ones that you've held so long they seem like the normal state. We made an analogy between tension and luggage (emotional baggage anyone?). You can think of different areas of tension as different pieces of luggage you carry around on yourself. Learning to release tension is about learning to recognize when you can put down one of those pieces of luggage because you don't need to carry it anymore. I think it's helpful to think of tension as luggage because of the resistance to letting go of the long held tensions - if you know you're just putting down a suitcase for a little while, you can always pick it back up if you miss it. But it's also possible that you'll realize you can travel lighter.
I'm finding this suitcase analogy really useful for other things as well - I have so many compartments to my life these days - day jobs, side projects, auditions, etc. And it doesn't help to try to carry all of those bags at the same time. If I bring the day job bag into an audition, there goes the audition. If I bring the audition to the side project, I'll end up saying the wrong lines! And if I bring any or all of those home to the dinner table, I'm going to be less present for the important people in my life.
To be even more specific, it's a great analogy for how to deal w/auditions after they're done. Put the suitcase down. Once you're done, you're done and it's up to someone else to make the decision.