Archive for tension
When you play with the brain in a mindful way, the body can get a boost.
Targeting the brain’s sensory-motor cortex can help relieve stiffness, stress, ease pain, and improve the body and mind.
The brain’s motor cortex sits atop the brain adjacent to the sensory cortex.
The motor part is where you can “turn on” the motor of movement. The sensory part lets you perceive or feel a variety of sensations or feelings about the quality of movement itself.
This feedback loop of information can help you in effect, move well and be freer to move around.
This little guy is called the homonculus, the little man.
This represents how our body parts are reflected in the brain in terms of how we use them and sense them.
As you can see from this representation:
The hands and mouth have the largest areas in terms of how we sense ourself.
In order to help both the brain and body as you age, you can zero in on your sensory-motor cortex so both a movement in and of itself and the quality of how you move your body is addressed by paying attention to the information you can perceive or feel.
Plus, you can do this in a playful type of manner without a lot of hard work.
You see, the brain functions better with a variety of movements which opens up the possibilities of new neural connections since the brain itself can be changed, formed, and reformed.
Normally, we think of brain exercises like doing a crossword puzzle or doing some type of cognitive training. Any number of ways can sharpen us mentally such as learning to play an instrument, trying new recipes and good old fashioned doing math in your head.
Regular exercise itself, is good in general, and can help the brain too.
The brain thrives on novelty and our 600 muscles and 17 layers of muscles and fascia (which surround the muscles) can be used in a unique un-exercise approach by focusing our awareness on the conscious nature of movement itself.
This wakes up the brain and body since we can tap into the flow of information in our nervous system.
This non-traditional approach can augment any traditional type of exercise and can actually let us exercise pain free or be able to do the necessary movements you engage in with less tension and a different felt sense of ability.
The brain can be used to lessen tension through a natural process of updating our movement software.
When we have less tension or when we can sustain more neutral levels of tension, then we can move easily and agilely over the long run.
So when our brain gets challenged with paying attention, our body can actually feel the difference. Even when small, easy, gentle micro-movements are used to help set up or be the foundation for the moveable building blocks of overall coordination of movement.
Slow movements help brain functions
Watching someone do small movements, is similar to watching grass grow.
We might think not a lot can be accomplished by little or slow movement.
When you shift upstairs to target your motor cortex and do conscious specific types of movements slowly, gently and with as much awareness as possible – the brain can help the body make a number of changes.
A slow movement practice is about how you pay attention to a number of areas of the body.
The conscious application of movement done slowly forms the system of somatics exercises which is essentially brain based.
9 Advantages of a Brain Based Practice
1 – Pain Relief Using the Brain
Since the brain thrives on novelty, the brain and body can be used in unique ways to affect the flow of information in the nervous system.
This is set up with simple movements that can be done in a lazy, gentle manner where the mind is highly engaged.
One of the brain functions of the motor cortex is that it can reset the resting levels of the muscles. The muscles are left more relaxed.
As the muscles become more relaxed, the brain creates more feelings of relaxation and pleasure.
2 – Improved Memory
Movement is memory.
The lower part of the brain, the cerebellum remembers much like a programmed computer program which does our quick, fast movements. We don’t have to think about it, we get up and go.
Using the brain’s motor cortex allows us to change the program by noticing what is happening in our overall quality of movement as well as the actual movement.
By improving the quality of how well we can move at any age, the brain functions at a higher level since the brain’s software is getting updated.This helps us remember and experience our former youthful movement.
3 – Gain Strength
Normally we exercise our muscles to get stronger.
Strength is also resiliency and flexibility.
So rather then a brawn approach, you can use the brain to lose excessive or amped up tension and stress.
Our body becomes more balanced. We remain strong like animals in the wild who reset their muscles naturally since the slow movements are done along certain chains of connections which help us move more effectively.
4 – Posture Changes
We can change our shape.
By losing compensations such as a curved spine which has our belly hanging over or the reverse when we’re too slumped.
Our new appearance results from letting go of the tension which held us in place by the lower brain and its programmed ways.
When the brain remembers to reset to neutral, the brain functions much better and now we appear more easily upright and relaxed.
5 – Natural Stress Alleviation
The brain can create powerful chemicals of relaxation.
Healthy animals with a spine tap into this natural source.
They do this through the act of pandiculation as they target the brain and body.
You can zone in on the brain in a similar conscious manner to create natural chemicals of relaxation so you’re left feeling content, relaxed and in control.
6 – Regain Natural Flexibility
Regaining flexibility is not about getting longer or going for range of motion.
Simply being able to squat is one thing, getting up is another.
When we let go of the binds of stress, tension and long held-injuries and compensations, the body knows where to reset to neutral so it can in effect move easy and be in comfortable positions.
You can move more freely and naturally by reprogramming the brain so a natural flexibility can be easily maintained.
7 – Improve the Immune System
When we’re constantly triggering flight or fight response in our busy lives, we’re not giving our self the chance to calm things down.
Resetting our brain and body so we can ramp it up and then back it down, allows us to live more easily with a nervous system which can be reset so our immune system is less burdened as the inflammatory response is cooled down.
This allows more good feelings to flow through us so it can aid in healing, for instance.
8 – Sleep Better
Tuning down tension levels using the brain relaxes our body.
The body and brain functions much better when we can rest easy so our tissues can repair.
Resting easy happens when we feel calmer and can let go of the body and the mind.
9 – Greater Sense of Peace and Tranquility
When you use the brain to reset the entire body system of movement, you can move with greater ease and comfort like any other healthy vertebrate animal.
As our earlier sense of freedom returns, movement can nurture us towards more tranquil states.
This also brings us a vibrant sense of confidence to move, relax and have a calm mind.
As you use the brain and target certain functions, you can return again and again to levels of comfort where you can fully understand or appreciate the mind and body connection.
Better brain functions
When we go back to the well of movement itself and harness the power of the brain to tap into our very awareness.
The brain’s intelligence is aroused (with a little practice) so you end up with a better brain and body.
When you reset yourself with a certain level of conscious awareness, the brain functions at levels which may continue to delightfully surprise you as you age.
Stress happens! So what do you do about it?
Some people will say just “relax and breathe”.
Easier said than done, unless you have a set of proven relaxation and meditation techniques at your disposal.
Zen Sensei and life coach, Pompe Strater-Vidal is inviting you to join me and 20+ other experts in meditation, mindfulness, and stress reduction.
Discover simple, surprisingly easy, and relaxing strategies to reduce stress and tension to rejuvenate yourself.
You’ll hear about methods which takes minutes per day to enjoy and finally – relax and breathe.
This FREE EVENT includes two 30-minute interviews over 11 days with these experts too.
You don’t have to have a lot of experience or extensive knowledge to feel the relief you’ll be able to create.
These people will show you ways to increase your energy and focus too.
Hey, registration is completely FREE when you register here.
I’m always looking for new insights to “experience the body from within” – the definition of Somatics.
In other words, it’s about how you feel, perceive and experience your living being.
These experts will offer a simple solution for you to use to:
• Reduce stress & tension
• Manage anxiety
• Get some good sleep
• Awaken your entire being and the joy you can feel right now
So join us in the Relax and Breathe Summit – sign up today.
When Larry retired 4 years ago, he developed tightness and stiffness… actually it was going on before that in his lower back.
Watch what Larry had to say about doing the simple, easy somatics exercises which are movements designed to get your brain to release held tension levels so you can move with ease while stimulating your nervous system back to feelings of pleasure.
Somatics is Life Changing
Larry said, “It’s changed my life. It really has..”
He went through a year and a half of chiropractic care where he was “twisted, poked and yanked” and was still the same. He had “no significant change”.
A friend recommended him to see me for Somatics, something which he had never heard of. Larry learned some basic moves in 3-4 sessions and “not only did it begin to make a difference right away… not only did it make sense intuitively to me because I always felt somehow the body could be more limber but stretching, forcing it wasn’t going to do it.”
Tightness, Stiffness and Pain Gone
Within 3 months he noticed a very noticeable change in his lower back stiffness & pain. Within 6 months, “basically I was fine, it was cured, I’d even say it was quicker than that”.
He was stunned at the difference.
Then he reflected on our physical education experience in school where he learned to play volleyball and he said “but you never learn anything about your body”.
Somatics, A Physical Education He Never Knew Existed
Somatics taught him more about his body, how his muscles work, how his body works together or doesn’t more than anything in his life before.
“That’s physical education”, according to Larry.
Somatics exercises are designed as simple movement patterns which progressively build upon creating a better foundation for movement.
It’s like going back to the fundamentals or building blocks of movement while taking out compensations which can be the root cause of stiffness and the pains and aches we live with or not!
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.
Somatic athlete is a term I use after not stretching for well over 10 years, yet have the flexibility at 53, that many 15 year olds have lost.
The practice of somatics allows for easier recovery and is a super easy way to prep for an athletic event and life in general.
Somatic Athlete Uses Intelligence Over Brawn
Given that your brain’s motor cortex can reset the resting levels of muscles naturally and effectively, it makes sense to keep using it so the sensory-motor system continues to evolve for your continued enjoyment with your body in whatever activities you choose.
This past weekend I had the bodily pleasure to play in a national soccer tournament for us seniors.
With each passing game, I could hear an athlete say how tight they had become or what was giving out – and these are the people who play the game.
What kind of preparation did they do?
Did they continue to run more, play more games, lift more weights or do the dreaded stretching thing? All the many usual things we do using our brawn to get us or remain in shape.
Most of those activities involve revving up the muscles, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless we can’t recover quickly or feel good after a physical activity.
Many athletes still falsely believe stretching cools them down. Before I get a lot of flack for say that–stretching is bad for us according to the current research.
Is there something else we can do to help us recover or not stay as tight in between our events or games?
The Other Side of the Coin the Somatic Athlete Uses
The brain’s cortex, however, can inhibit muscles. Why is this important?
While you normally activate the muscles in your games and activities, what can you do to actively de-activate them?
By using the brain’s cortex, it can create chemicals of relaxation in the very muscles you used up in your activity. The very ones which become overly contracted, sore or so stiff where you can hardly move and yet can’t wait to get home and do the usual things of icing, warm water soaking, ibuprofens, etc.
These band-aid lame attempts can help some easing, yet they don’tt cause correct nor reset the resting levels of the muscles.
The brain can change how your muscles are responding through cortical inhibition where you learn to tune down or turn off unnecessary muscles from jumping in or substituting. In other words, the effort in movement becomes easier.
However, many recreational athletes continue doing something passively like drinking beer, sitting in the hot tub or icing to take care of the aches since this is what the majority of us have been led to believe or prefer doing.
While those activities can be fun, does it really regenerate the body?
How the Somatic Athlete Preps and Recovers
Preparing the body is key to not only being able to enjoy all the many ways you can play, it also allows you to recover quickly so you can play or participate in your favorite activities more often.
While it’s true adequate hydration, nutrition, and a positive mental attitude are key components for an athlete, you are always moving in your games and your movement system needs to be re-adjusted accordingly.
To re-adjust the movement system and take out the kinks or prepare for an activity is to remind the sensory-motor system of its functional capacity with the added bonus of being left feeling the resulting relaxation which occurs.
Your brain has the ability to relax your body more powerfully than a hot tub and a heckuva lot easier than sitting in ice.
Stressed, over worked muscles need time to recover and that can be enhanced by naturally utilizing our intelligence.
The brain’s cortex can be used to prepare the body and mind for a multitude of physical activities like a soccer tournament, running event, playing volleyball or just enjoying a walk or going out dancing for an evening.
You oughta be able to run at any age without pulling a hamstring or throwing your back out from just bending over.
A somatic athlete can recover and have the confidence to go back into their favorite physical activity sooner rather than later.
Come join me so you can discover how a somatic athlete can both prepare and recuperate in our a variation of the daily maintenance program so you can free yourself naturally, easily and keep on moving & playing well as you age.