Archive for Stretching
Releasing stress, tension or tightness with hip flexor stretches actually goes against how our nervous system can be rewired to ultimately get those tight hip flexors to naturally let go. An old reflex known as the startle reflex can actually keep hemming us in.
Lame hip flexor stretches…
Such as this one where many of us were taught and continue to do actually tighten the hamstrings. Look at how much tension we can create by pulling our heel to our buttocks. By moving the heel towards the buttocks, we are in effect contracting the hamstring although we are “trying” to stretch the hip flexor.
We’ve known for some time that when we stretch a contracted area such as the hip flexor, the brain will send a message back to the muscles retightening it since there is a program from the lower brain which has learned the set point.
In other words, say your hip flexor is tight. You pull it away as in the picture in order to lengthen it. Yet the program from the brain’s perspective is a 20% or so held tension level. When we “try” to lengthen it in the manner so many of us were taught, we “think” we are stretching and gaining length yet the brain remembers the set point and re-contracts back to the 20% or whatever held tension level.
Good news is… your hip flexor stretches are accomplished. The bad news is, you didn’t gain any length unless you’re forcing the tissues which then pulls on the tendons which don’t need any stretching.
So how do we counter this and use the brain to get the muscles to let go.
Back up those hip flexor stretches and get to know the startle reflex
The startle reflex is an old brain program so we can reflexively protect ourself by pulling in to ourself. When a shot gets fired or we’re startled, our muscles will go into a particular pattern which happens quickly.
If trauma or enough negative circumstances happen to us, we can adapt our muscles to “being” pulled in. We can have crow’s eyes, a tight jaw, tensed shoulders, a contracted belly, tight hip flexors and a tight groin and feet that’ll clutch to save us.
All well and good for a brief moment until the negative event passes. But what if our muscular system receives enough negative stress where for any number of reasons, it just can’t let go.
So what have we resorted to? Yep, those lame hip flexors stretches for instance which actually reinforce the pattern and truly do not let go.
You see, the one big muscle, the brain’s motor cortex can send information to the lower brain centers so the muscles get a new program. Unlike exercise which strengthens muscles and stretching which does not help us according to present day research – although there is still some debate on this. There is another way to release held tension levels which by the way is what we did as babies and young children.
When we were young, we pandiculated our muscles and movement system. In other words, we consciously tensed the tension pattern or tightness we felt and then the higher brain sent the information to the lower brain so the muscles would let go and be reprogrammed to lower tension levels. Thus setting the muscles free and we could move in our youthful ways.
The very same hip flexor stretches we are doing take us backwards rather than allowing for natural flexibility which the brain can handle. Fortunately we’ve systematized those youthful pandiculations and the system is known as somatics exercises where we use both our brain and body to reset the length of our muscles. The higher brain is used to both relax muscles back to lower tension levels and give them back their much needed function.
Do your hip flexor stretches do this for you?
Hip flexor stretches and the structural viewpoint
When we’re looked at from the structural viewpoint of being bent over, tight and held in position. Naturally we’ve been advised to gain length by the method of stretching muscles which does nothing in regards to its function.
Our muscles receive a message from the brain to contract while the opposite set of muscles ideally will lengthen and let go. How can they let go if they never receive the program to remind them of their function? Forcing the tissues into length is ill advised but of course some of you will still practice what goes against how our neurophysiology works.
Sitting too much can cause our hip flexors to remain tight and lose their function. Even our feelings and negative emotions impact our muscles. After all, we feel with our muscles and when we get depressed, don’t we feel like curling up or sitting down to hunker inwards. Our feeling and sense perceptions can take what appears to be our structure to places of where it is hanging out and maybe its learned to hang out there too long for own good.
The system of somatics exercises which works with the brain and muscles gives us the internal ability to change back the clock and refresh our movement system to its more youthful ways. We literally feel our way back to our comfortable senses. Movement is memory and we can enhance the brain’s motor cortex so that hip flexor stretches are not necessary.
Simple, easy movement done with our sensing by engaging those muscles and then letting them go with a deeper appreciation of our senses, allows the natural restoration and movement update to occur.
To find out how you can readily use the brain’s infinite and more vast repertoire of regaining length and re-establishing control with the muscles, you can join me for an online live somatics exercise class (or get the replay) where you’ll learn a completely different set of hip flexor stretches.
You’ll learn how negative events and startling circumstances can cause us to cringe and what muscles we can use so those hip flexor stretches can be a thing of the out dated past.
When we reset the brain’s motor cortex, the muscles will function at higher levels and you’ll have an entirely new way which can seem counter-intuitive yet these type of hip flexor stretches “not” will lessen the stiffness, aches, tension and stress of holding on which our brains and body knows how to do.
At Victoria’s University School of Sports and Exercise Science in Australia, James Zois sees the same epidemic I’ve been raving and kindly reminding you about – stop stretching!
Look at this poor guy stretching
By attempting to stretch his hip flexor, he’s actually tightening his hamstrings, the muscles behind the leg.
He might be even contracting his back muscles to be able to get that foot to the buttocks.
Maybe he can still sit on his heels, but the point is… a stretch such as this is still done at professional levels and worse, high schools and even middle schools kids are being led down this lazy and counter-productive route.
Lazy on account of research moving on. Athletes do not need this to warm-up.
Divorce Counselor for Stretching
As a divorce counselor for stretching… you can rest easy, there are other ways to lengthen muscles and warm them up.
For instance, healthy vertebrate animals aren’t stretching either. It’s not what you think.
They consciously contract and then release themselves.
By refocusing your attention on what muscles are designed to do, that is to contract, we can reset them and ready them at the same time.
Stretching is Over
Leave it to the folks who’ll continue to argue about it saying it makes them feel good rather than understanding it’s a waste of time and we can use our intelligence to reset things rather than pulling us apart.
Even for us 50 year olds, stretching is over.
The groin stretch is yet another one of those lame stretches we’ve been advised to do to get the inner leg muscles to lengthen.
Groin stretch no more
In spite of what we know about stretching, many people and especially athletes still try to the stretch the groin muscles which pull the leg inwards or keep the thighs rotated inwards.
Groin stretch, the other side of the coin
Our attempts are most often futile since pushing on a tight area actually causes the brain to send a message to re-contract and tighten the tissues.
This violation of the stretch reflex happens everyday and prevents the groin muscles from truly being reset back to comfortable levels with minimal tension.
The pains we feel are often reflected in higher than normal resting tension levels.
Some people will even lie down and attempt to do a groin stretch passively… afterwards the brain has to re-contract to get back to its preprogrammed set point.
While the set points serve us, they can also be held in shortened, tight positions. By pushing a shortened position, the brain sends messages to re-contract and pull back to the set point thus not effectively lengthening the muscles we are targeting.
Muscles respond to messages from the brain and even the spinal cord when we quickly and reflexively pull away. When we shift to using the brain’s cortex, our muscles can be reset through a brain-body process which re-regulates tension in the muscles.
Instead of the groin stretch, we can use those groin muscles to gain length. This counterintuitive approach makes sense when we feel our way back to comfort.
This 2 for 1 approach readies muscles to be used and simultaneously relaxes them. A relaxed groin area is far more ready to be used than the tight, screaming groins many people endure.
The not groin stretch class
So instead of a groin stretch, we can learn how to artfully move the inner leg muscles in a variety of ways which will allow us to feel better at any time.
Tight inner legs may cause us to feel a tight band feeling around our back and even assist turning “on” the burning sensations of sciatica.
However, muscles don’t move in isolation, we can play with coordination sequences which engage both the legs and upper body to bring us back to more relaxed feelings.
When we’ve been pulled out of alignment through high tension levels, we can reset our body to bring us back towards balance.
A groin stretch itself is not enough to regain lost function and improve how well we can move without discomfort. We need integrated patterns which restores us. Different easy movement combinations in the field of gravity will do the trick.
By making little changes, we affect how we move as a whole, healthy being.
Please join our not groin stretch online class and learn how the brain improves brawn.
“Stretching is Out…
Science now shows that stretching is
• bad for us
• a waste of time
Don’t try to increase your range of motion
• can cause architectural damage
• straining muscle stays weakened
So what to do instead?
Move Like an Animal
The $5 word you probably haven’t heard of… pandiculation… aka Somatics Exercises.
Join us Saturday/Sunday, February 26/27 at 10am, 1pm, 4pm at the Starfire Complex during the Washington State Women’s Soccer Association Winter Chill Tournament.
You’ll find out what all healthy animals and even babies know.
Somatics is a systematized approach using the pandicular process that animals naturally use to reset their muscles for length, strength, mobility, agility and vitality.
By using your brain, the big muscle, you can reset all the rest of the muscles with chemicals of relaxation so the muscles are ready to be used and more functional .
Healthy vertebrate animals and babies use this process… we human adult animals are just catching on. It’s so easy any cat or dog can do it.
You’ll never, ever… have to stretch again. Somatics Exercises are so too simple.
That old style way of stretching that most of us were taught is.. old school.
Listen here to NPR or read what is finally changing in the world of stretching.
Some coaches and trainers are still using old, outdated ways to work with their athletes. How many PE teachers are leading your children down this path?
Your brain can change how your muscles rest. If your muscles learn or re-learn to rest, then you can use them and do what you want to do much better.
Simple, easy movement is what nature intends for us to do.
Setting up movement is the step we need before we exercise, otherwise we just keep getting tighter, rather than looser… or we keep re-injuring our self and wonder why.
Is is time for a change?
Instead of stretching, set up your body for movement with a way most people have never heard of.
Pandiculate your way to health instead… all the animals are doing it.
When are you going to stop stretching and move like an animal again?