Archive for muscle stiffness
This extraordinary act happened during the course of my training to become a Hanna Somatic Educator over ten years ago.
At the time of the fall, I was both surprised and mesmerized by all the movements the little fellow attended to before triumphantly walking back into the woods.
While I was learning about this animal act and how we could use it both manually for the hands-on bodywork as well as for the movement patterns we teach.
What I came to discover is to Move Like an Animal and give up the ways in which I was taught to stretch.
Simple conscious movement done with an ever growing awareness trumps all the stretching techniques I practiced, even those I practiced for hours at a time to “not” relieve my chronic pain years of fibromyalgia.
I had no idea the brain could reset tension levels and didn’t think much of it initially, even though my knee was recuperating from an accident on account of micro-movement.
Tension levels can appear to hold us in place. Many of the compensations which hold us out of balance are held at the level of tension signals generated by the brain.
When we learn to turn the switch off, the tension levels lessen so we can reprogram our muscles for more effective and easier movement. The upside is, stiffness and pain go away.
In the past decade, I’ve continued to put this to the test in soccer tournaments where we play some 3-5 games over the weekend or more during weekly competitions.
My peers fill up the physical therapy and massage tents with all the usual aches and complaints of tight hamstrings, groins, sore backs, calf cramps and more. Just from playing a game so many people stiffen or can’t rest knowing they’ll get even stiffer in between games.
While I’ve had my shares of injuries from the collisions and the odd mayhem which happens, I continued to foster the ability to Move Like an Animal so that the general stiffness doesn’t happen. The aches and pains of a collision lessen rapidly.
The ability to recover quickly and be able to play again continues even as I play in the national and state level senior competitions. So I even took this decade long experiment further and did not ice or use up the tiger balm or even have a need for a hot tub.
While those measures can ease things a bit, I took the squirrel’s point of view and re-mend with simple conscious movement.
Since I’ve helped many, many people do the same, the book:
is now out of the cage and available to download from Amazon. If you can read this, then you’ll be able to see it and read on your electronic device.
What are you waiting for? Are you ready to Move Like an Animal and Be Comfortable for Life?
That moment led me to the work of helping people overcome physical pain. In my 30+ year journey of living in pain, getting out of pain, and eventually learning how to help others… I’d like to give you a freebie somatics exercise class.
Go below, so you can get to download a quick, simple set of movements over at my sister site. You’ll get to hear a 14 minute audio recording. You’ll get to play with one of the more familiar somatics exercise patterns which is helpful to release trauma, improve walking, free up the side or waist muscles… and it’ll give you another way to not stretch those side muscles.
Once you learn this move, you might think and move differently to release the muscles of your side.
Why an audio recording instead of a video? When we listen, we target a specific part of the brain. When we watch, we use a different part.
All you have to do is lie back, follow along and your brain will relax the muscles as you regain or improve function at the same time. You’ll be able to go at your own pace and move well within your own comfort zone depending on your unique set of circumstances.
What’s the catch? Just make a comment or ask your questions inside the downnload area after you’ve done the movements.
Hurry, this offer is good for a few days..
See you on our sister site…
Pain free moves and living made easy with somatics exercises.
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.
Healthy adults can do kids stuff to remind our muscles how comfortable they can feel once again and again.
Pandiculation is kids stuff
Most of us began to pandiculate in the 7th week of our life. If we’re a healthy adult, we continue this very natural act to reset our muscles and movement system. This gives us comfortable movement.
If not, we can remind our nervous system of its former ability and bring it back to consciousness. This ability reminds us of our feelings of well-being.
The kids stuff we used to do fortunately has been systematized as somatics exercises which are gentle, easy reminders to self-adjust our muscles back to the comfort zone.
Kids stuff reboots our movement software
The systematic somatics exercises allows us to explore our internal terrain in novel ways which fosters the development of our brain’s motor cortex as well as re-eliciting our capacity in our sensory cortex to sense ourself at finer levels.
For instance, the simple act of breathing can be opened up merely by pandiculating ourself to improved health.
This type of kids stuff is relevant at all ages… and this type of kids stuff reboots our movement software towards better breathing and more comfort in our movement system.
Stiffness or stiff movements are learned over a lifetime and are replicated as a habit. Can we dissolve what seems like chronic or acute stiffness… you betcha we can. Remind ourself of the former kids stuff we used to do and we can feel the stiffness let go in our back, shoulders, and neck for example.
A healthy vertebrate animal moves with ease, grace, suppleness and in harmony since its movement system is coordinated and not bound up, down, sideways or held twisted.
Can we free ourself back to more harmonious states? Could some simple easy kids stuff be the ticket?
Paying attention to our internal state while we are moving allows us to recalibrate. Our body knows the way back to reset ourself to comfortable states. It’s simply a matter of kids stuff when you get right down to it.
In our earlier kids stuff moments we were highly engaged in a learning matter. Now, we can rekindle this relationship of movement, let go of it artfully, then we remember how we re-navigate our internal terrain towards ease in moving around.
Sometimes we can experience a flash from the past, we can bump into past difficulties and yet smooth things out. In any case, we are re-establishing a finer way to move and self-adjust our entire movement system.
The quality of a movement rather than the strength or force of a movement is what sets us free. The precision in which we can be aware of our internal arrangements is a path to greater ease and freeing up our muscles to regain mobility while restoring natural flexibility.
When we reacquaint ourself with the method or process of natural reorganization, we might keep doing this kids stuff for the rest of our comfortable life.
Kids Stuff Class for Adults
When we’re injured it might feel as if we’re beginning from scratch to move around. All the bracing, holding on and tensing may seem normal yet when we let go of our holding patterns more quickly, we reboot as we did as children.
You can join me for an online kids stuff somatics exercise class. All you have to do is listen and follow along to remind yourself of how easy, simple movements can unlock tight, stiff, holding patterns. The brain will take care of it in seconds.
You’ll get to free up the back, shoulders, neck and hips in our one hour+ kids stuff class where you can join us live or get the replay.
When we fall, our muscles go into certain protective trauma postures. We’ll go back inside of ourselves and stay there for some time until the trauma usually resolves itself. Sometimes it takes a little longer.
Can you release physical trauma?
What if we could use what nature has given us to release the protective holding of a physical trauma more quickly and confidently.
Releasing held trauma is something I know about since I realized I had been holding onto an incident which occurred while I was a young boy. Some 30 years of holding a pattern unconsciously kept me at bay – and I didn’t even know it. Until one day, I did a very specific maneuver and I was reminded of the event that I had long since forgotten yet recalled more from a conceptual level.
So here I was reliving it and at the same time “finally” letting go of it. The trauma which was held, let go. Sometimes we hold onto things more than necessary. Yikes.
Compensations such as legs which are internally rotated can be a bear to live with, though in time we can get used to moving ourself around even if we’re hung up a bit, too stiff or get used to living with too much tension.
Heck we might have even created such a held trauma pattern by having read mystery or suspense books for too long with our knees knocking. Maybe those scary mystery books led us into another type of mystery such as scoliosis, which we can’t resolve.
Scoliosis and Trauma
Many people who have been diagnosed with scoliosis or suspect they have, often compensate with a fairly typical trauma response. While each of us displays this uniquely with certain vertebrate being pulled in one direction, another or in multiple distortions away from a neutral posture.
We can safely release held trauma tension patterns. After all, it has been happening to us on an ongoing basis. Our bones are not fixed as some would have you believe. If that were true, how come your still walking? Well maybe you’re still expertly limping around.
Held trauma patterns can cause us to limp too long so we favor another body part and compensate that around the trauma. We can get very good at navigating around, get used to it… until the pains of a lifetime keep knocking on the door again and again.
Trauma Release Class
Each week I teach people how the brain can let go of tension patterns, even if we’ve lived unconsciously with them like many of us have.
This week I’m offering an online class on a trauma release for the legs & hips which are more internally rotated. You can see that by looking at knees which roll inwards or a hip which is higher than the other one… or when we feel short waisted these types of compensations can let go when our brain’s motor cortex releases chemicals of relaxation so we regain both function and are more relaxed to move comfortably about.
You can get the class live or purchase a replay and enjoy it many times over. All you have to do is listen and follow along. No worries, you’ll be able to talk with me either live or in the replay portal where I’ll help you out.
Please don’t hold onto that physical trauma anymore, we can simply let it go and your brain is just sitting there waiting to make it happen now.
The art of letting go
Letting go of tight, restricted, stiff, tense muscles is easier said than done.
While the advice to just let go sounds like a good idea, our muscles may have
forgotten how to relieve the tension and remain tight as a drum.
It’s possible our muscles have forgotten the art of letting go.
Letting go of muscular tension
When we were young we could easily bound down a hill. Today, as an adult so many of us brace our way down the hill or stairs instead of easily letting go.
When we begin an activity from a place of already being contracted, we accumulate more contractions and move further away from letting go of the muscular tension we’ve added.
When we are in pain, we are often wary. If we happen to stretch a contracted area, then the brain will send a message to re-contract afterwards. Things tighten up once again and letting go doesn’t happen.
Even in a traction device, our muscles will re-contract afterwards so hanging upside down to lengthen muscles may feel temporarily good, yet the brain will do what it does to reset the muscular tension levels back to its set points.
Instead, if we consider our self as a self-adjusting organism, we don’t need any contraptions or devices, just our self and gravity since this is the field we happened to have things go awry in.
In the practice of somatics, we aren’t necessarily focusing on the muscles, we are working with the lines of communication from the brain to the muscles. The pathways or information from brain to muscle is where we play and change both the brain and body.
When we experience a painful signal – this can be our greatest teacher since we can locate a movement above, below, to the right or left or forwards/back of it – which we can release by being careful.
Regaining the ability of letting go
If you believe you can improve yourself, we know today from neural plasticity, the brain and thus the body can change itself.
With a little know-how we can relearn the lost art of letting go.
By easing our way into greater range of motion rather than force, we’ll end up being stronger simply by letting go. If we push it, our brain will naturally re-contract the muscles.
To go easy is like untying a knot gently. If you tug too tightly, the knot will tighten.
Please join me in Letting Go which offers you the fun, simple moves done in a different way of focusing on movement and using the brain to reset our muscles naturally back to deep levels of relaxation and comfort.
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.
Have you been hamstrung and tried all sorts of hamstring exercises lately?
Those muscles behind the back of the legs can be tight and stiff in spite of our attempts to loosen them by stretching.
Is it possible to release other muscles associated in a causal chain of movement which will allow the hamstrings to be more comfortable?
Somatics hamstring exercises focus on the brain’s ability to release chemicals of relaxation so the hammies are free to move about without all the stiffness or tightness we carry around with us.
Hamstring exercises and a tight back
Many times, a stiff back is what prevents hamstring exercises from being effective. You can actually tighten things without realizing it, if you push contracted muscles beyond their set limits.
Freeing up the back is often necessary for the hamstrings to function more effectively.
Not only that, we may need to free up the shoulders, which if left too contracted, can have adverse effects all the way down to those screaming hammies. Ouch!
Somatics hamstring exercises class
Instead of the usual hamstring exercises and approaches, somatics exercises work with the brain’s cortex to release held muscular contraction levels which frees up the hamstrings.
Having a more flexible back, looser shoulders, more functional abdominal muscles and a freer neck allows the hamstring to work in concert with certain patterns of movements.
Hamstring exercises while all well and good, may not provide the necessary connection towards freer movement overall.
Join us for our unique set of movements and hamstrings exercises which can surprise you in their effectiveness and ease of movement afterwards.
Somatics is often the reverse of most approaches out there since we use the brain to focus on freeing up movement rather than the brawn of exercise.
Stiffness, schmiffness. Tight, tense, overly worked muscles can recover quickly using the brain and body.
While it’s true that muscles get shorter overnight, we don’t have to live with muscle stiffness as a rule.
To change muscle stiffness to muscles which are relaxed throughout the body can happen with what is called somatics exercises.
Muscle stiffness and pain often go hand in hand.
It’s no fun waking up every day with stiff, tight, or tensed muscles. Less fun when that tightness won’t go away.
You see, nature has set up a very elegant manner to deal with it effectively. In fact, Fido takes care of it in a way many of us haven’t imagined.
When he releases them, his brain sends the message to the muscles to get them to relax and take out the overnight muscle stiffness.
This seemingly simple practice may help us with getting out of pain from those tight, overly stressed muscles which continue to agitate us.
While we’ve been told to stretch, there is another way to get the muscles to lengthen just like animals do.
Fortunately, this is what is at the heart of somatics exercises.
The very act that animals do – engages a part of the brain to remind not only the muscles of their function. The brain causes powerful chemicals of relaxation to be released.
How muscle stiffness can be alleviated.
Simply pandiculating with certain movement combinations turns on the brain’s cortex to change tension levels so stiffness melts away. When you pandiculate
• muscle stiffness,
• the aches
• and the pains…
can go away by doing the animal thing in a lazy, conscious, simple way.
Let muscle stiffness be a thing of the past.
Come learn what we have from Fido. There is a systematic, yet fun, gentle, easy way to get the kinks out.
Animals do about 40-50 top secret moves everyday.
Good news is. We’ve got their system down to moving more easily so you can feel what life is like without all the stiffness. Plus, it works for any age since the brain is waiting to be accessed.
Join our online movement classes to end muscle stiffness for good.