Tension

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“What keeps the body upright is a dynamic network of fascia and muscles maintained in a state of tension” ~ Robert Schleip

The human body is a tensional network. That tension keeps us upright and moving. Remove the tension, like when your sleeping, and you collapse in a heap. Sometimes that tension becomes unbalanced, through injury, illness, emotional trauma or inactivity and we feel the effects in our body.

The fascia or connective tissue holds, senses, balances and transfers that tension. Because the human body is a dynamic system, a whole in which everything is connected, that unbalanced tension is transferred and experienced in different and often surprising ways. That pain in your knee could be the result of an imbalance in the opposite shoulder or something in your foot. That tight low back could be from the way you’re feeling about your job.

One of the goals of all our movement work from Fascial Stretch Therapy and LifeStretch classes to strength training is to adjust and rebalance that tension. And, because everybody ( every body) is different, that balance and work is different, even from day to day or week to week.

The fascial system is more than just a structural network. It is a sensory system, movement system and supply network. It connects body, mind and spirit. Each impacts the others. Changes in your body are often telling you something about other things in life that need adjustment.

Keeping that balance is always a dynamic process. As you listen to your body and become more and more in tune you recognize those imbalances sooner, learn how to adjust, and when to ask for help. Keeping the tension in healthy balance is what it’s all about.

Patience

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Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” ~ Ralph W. Emerson

When it comes to health, fitness and well being Emerson’s advice is well taken. There are no shortcuts to growth. Hacks and quick fixes are for machines. You and I are a part of nature, living, breathing human beings. Patience is the quiet virtue that supports our growth.

Patience is about being able to act and wait at the same time. We take the actions that move us toward our goals, exercise, rest, eat well, manage our stress and then wait patiently for the results to show themselves, in small ways, slowly over time. If we give up acting, nothing happens. If we try to force things we break down. Patience is about doing the work AND trusting the process. The end result is not change but transformation.

Patience isn’t easy but, just like strength or endurance it can be cultivated too and there is evidence that the more we have the healthier we are. Clear values, a sense of purpose and support from others make a big difference. Do the work, get some help where you need it and trust the good stuff will show itself. Oh yeah, then make sure to enjoy the process.

Purpose

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“Your exercise is always connected to a purpose and crafted to accomplish it. You must find purpose and put it to work.” ~ Twyla Tharp

Purpose can sound burdensome and heavy, especially when it comes from outside. When were “working out” to meet others expectations or an outside standard it can become a obligation, a “have to” or a “should” that drains us.

When it comes from the inside though, when it’s connected to what matters to us, it energizes and flows. That doesn’t mean our practice will always be easy. It can be very challenging. In fact, to accomplish our purpose it needs to be at times. But, it’s ours, it’s intrinsic.

Purpose doesn’t need to be a ‘change the world, pillar of fire’ kind of thing. It can be as simple as wanting to stand in your own strength or enjoy an activity with someone you care about. The only thing that matters is that it’s clear and it’s yours. Then your movement practice or training plan will be yours as well. Then you can put your purpose to work.

Start

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“This is the moment of embarking.

All auspicious signs are in place.” ~ Deng Ming-Dao

Ready, set, go!? What are you wanting to start? The signs are there or you wouldn’t be thinking about it.

While the signs may be auspicious, beginnings can feel awkward and scary. But, they also carry excitement and imagination about what could be, and hope for what might be different. Of course, they aren’t beginnings until we take the first step.

What’s the first step you can take to get started on whatever it is you’ve been thinking about? Don’t confuse the destination with the first step. You can’t get there all at once. That’s actually good news because now all you need to focus on is the first step; as small and imperfect as it may feel or as bold and big as you want to make it. And, then you’ll learn and you can make another.

But now, take the first step, take the walk or run around the block, make the phone call, change one thing in your diet, try a minute of meditation, find a teacher, ask for help, turn your screens off at 8:00. Small steps, one at a time, each one informing the next. “Now is the time for embarking. All auspicious signs are in place.”

MAKING THE CHOICE

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The athlete learns that the external stuff is beyond their control. The weather conditions, the officiating, the injury to a team mate or a competitor; all impact the game or the race and none of them are in their hands. So, they learn how to accept the circumstance, the bad call, the injury, the rain or heat and, focus on what they can control.

And, as they do they discover that their true power comes not from insisting that things be different than they are but from how they choose to respond to what is.

Listening To The Body

The body says what words cannot.” Martha Graham

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Try this: stand with your feet about hip width apart, not too wide and not right next to each other. Close your eyes if you are comfortable and lean forward onto the balls of your feet until you feel you’re at the edge of your balance. Feel the tension in the back of your legs? Now lean backward and do the same thing. Find the edge of your balance and notice the tension in the front of your legs or maybe your ankles. Wherever you feel it is fine. Just notice it.  Now lean forward again, a little less this time and then back again a little less. Continue moving gently forward and back, less and less until you come to a place where you feel balanced over your feet with no tension in the front or back of your legs. Notice how your feet feel. You’ve just listened to your body.

Next, choose one of your arms and let your hand float up and away from your shoulder making a circle as if you were swimming the back stroke. Go slowly and notice how it feels as it moves through the arc. If you feel any pain or discomfort shorten your arc, change the angle of your arm.You may feel is a little light tension as you move through some spots. Allow your head and eyes to follow your hand as it moves and keep your eyes closed. Now reverse the circle and move as if you were swimming forward. Again just notice and adjust until you find a path that provides a gently tension but no pain or discomfort. You’ve just listened to your body.

Now, with your feet still hip width apart, place one hand on your belly button and one hand on your back. Breathe, gently and notice the movement in the space between your hands. Take a few breaths. Put your hands either side of your torso at the bottom of your rib cage and continue to breath gently. Notice what happens to the space between your hands now. You’re listening to your body 

Learning to listen to our bodies is fundamental to creating health and well-being and even sustainable performance. We pay attention to how much weight we lift or how far or fast we run but without listening to the body we have no context in which to interpret what we’re doing or how we’re doing. 

One of the surprising benefits of working with clients online in their homes the past month has been the way it removes so many of the distractions of a club or gym setting. No loud music, no background chatter, no one asking if you’re done with the equipment or just interrupting to say hi. Those aren’t bad things but when we remove them we can begin to pay attention to what’s actually happening in our body as we move. We become aware and in tune in new ways. I find many clients much more aware. Slowly we can adjust to expand, adapt, and get even more from our movement.  

As we move through our current reality, where the old spaces and places and routines are momentarily unavailable, I invite you to pause, breathe, even close your eyes where that’s possible. Let your attention rest on and in your body and see what you notice. The great American dancer and choreographer Martha Graham said, “ The body says what words cannot.” What is your body telling you? 

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Why We Stretch

We stretch because it helps us feel better. While we may not do it often enough,  we all know the feeling of a good stretch in the morning when we get up before we start moving. We reach, twist, take a good breath and maybe a yawn.  We know how good it feels to lean or bend or pull against something when our low back feels tight or a shoulder is stiff and the relief we experience. 

We stretch to move better. The right kind of stretching helps us gently and easily open space in our joints and in the connective tissue or fascia that gives our body structure and absorbs and transmits the force we need to move. When that tissue is tight or restricted we lose our range of motion and that elastic bouncey feel that allows us to move freely and easily. When it’s stretched well we feel light and loose. 

We stretch to perform better, wether it’s in training or competition for an athlete, or in the simplest activities of daily iife. Flexibility is about being able to adapt to the changing demands of our environment. Again, that means changing direction on a soccer field but it also means carrying a bag of groceries while you try to pick up a toddler. The right kind of stretching helps us respond to those moments when we have to move in unexpected ways and, also gives us the ability to move with more grace and power as we go through the day. 

If you are already making time to stretch good for you. Here is a great resource to help you make sure you’re getting the full benefits of a good routine.  Stretch To Win by Ann Frederick and Chris Frederick, they have been pioneers in the field for over 25 years.

If you don’t have a stretching practice let’s get together and help you start one. A good stretching practice is simple, pain-free and personalized. Reach out here and we’ll get started. 

Relax and Recover With Fascial Stretch Therapy™️

FST helps turn the stress switch off and bring us back home to a more relaxed place

One of the biggest benefits of Fascial Stretch Therapy™️ is the powerful and effective role it can play in relaxation and recovery. Whether it’s the stiffness, soreness or heavy legs that come from working out and competing or the accumulation of tension from the physical and emotional stress of daily life that we all experience, the gentle, pain-free movements and stretch wave of FST help trigger a parasympathetic response in the body ( think “rest and relax”) that allows the body to restore and refresh itself.

We live in a world where our sympathetic ( fight, flight or freeze) nervous system in often overactive and overloaded. Being in a constant state of having to produce, deliver, measure up or just keep up leaves many of us feeing both tense an exhausted at the same time.

That stress gets “stored” in the body. It can be the physical demands of training for competition or , the exercise class we take or the 18 holes of golf we just played. But, it’s also the mental and emotional wear and tear of meeting the demands of work, family life and other daily stressses that gets lodged in the body – the tight hips, the stiff lower back, the tension in our shoulders and neck. ( we’re not meant to be walking around with our shoulders hunched up to our ears)

Some of the tightest, most sensitive, most restrictive clients I work with aren’t athletes or fitness enthusiasts at all. They are people who are experiencing the effects of always feeling “on”. FST has been such a helpful tool for restoring that state of calm that it’s not unusual for some clients to actually fall asleep on the table before our session is over.

It’s important to realize that pain is not a lifestyle and that state of calm is not an luxury or an indulgence. Relaxation and recovery are essential and make us more able, not less to rise to new challenges as they come. While every individual’s threshold is different, powering through is something we do at our own peril.

There are a variety of things that help us recover, refresh and restore ourselves; sleep, nutrition, hydration, getting outside, connecting with others. Good bodywork, like FST helps turn the stress switch off and bring us back home to a more relaxed place where we can take greater advantage of them. While FST was developed in the high performance world of Olympic and professional sports you don’t need to be an athlete to use it. It’s use has spread to health, wellness, general fitness and medical settings around the world.

Check it out here and consider giving it a try. Sometimes we don’t even know how tightly we’ve been wound until we take the time to unwind.

Creating A Better Pattern


Trying to change a habit can be hard work – even when we know its not good for us or that it’s keeping us from being who we want to be or doing what we want to do. New patterns take time to establish and they often feel awkward and mechanical at the start. They just don’t feel natural.   

You can see it in something simple like running mechanics. Even small adjustments like foot placement or hand position take time to become part of us. We need to repeat them over and over again, paying attention and continuing to adjust before they take hold.  

I worked with an athlete a few years ago who resisted small changes in her form because in her words, “I don’t like it, it feels too easy.” Then one day at the end of a workout I put her on the watch and asked her to run a 40. It was her second fastest ever – even though it came at the end a fitness and conditioning session. She ran two more and they were just as fast. She started to see that maybe there was something to the new mechanics. Slowly it became her preferred pattern, the new normal.  

In his book, Job’s Body, A Handbook For Bodywork, Deane Juhan writes, “You have to behave in a reality before you can perceive in that reality.  For personal change, for pattern change, for template change it is necessary to act, to voluntarily, willfully engage in the process of self-observation and self-regulation and to stay with it over time …”  

I’m getting coached right now, working on my nutrition and eating habits. It’s slow work but it’s good. Paying attention ( in a non-judgmental way ) and making adjustments isn’t as simple or easy as it sounds. It is frustrating at times and then there are small breakthroughs.

Part of good coaching is engaging the athlete or client in a relationship and environment that helps us make those uncomfortable changes and meet the challenges slowly, at our own pace in a way that makes sense to us and makes them intrinsic. A new pattern that’s stable. Creating a space that is both challenging and safe, where we can practice doing it differently, paying attention in a non-judgmental way and keep adjusting until we create a new path that takes us closer to where we want to go.  


Finding Happy Again

 

 

“We play because we have an exuberance spirts and energy … but, we also are exuberant because we play”  Kay Redfield Jamison, Exuberance, The Passion For Life

 

What happens when we loose that exuberance of spirits and energy? What happens when something that starts as play turns into an experience that leaves us “broken” ? And, can we find our way back to a place of joy and vitality?

 

UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi showed us you can with her performance this past weekend in the Bruins’ opening meet. She scored a perfect 10 but … as Washington Post writer Allyson Chiu wrote this week, ” The most notable feature of Ohashi’s performance was the sheer joy she exuded, which starkly contrasted the revelations she made this August about her decision to step back from her Olympic dreams several years ago after the sport left her “broken”.

 

At the time she left she had been competing with a fractured back and two torn shoulders.  She shared her story in a video on The Players Tribune

Stuart Brown, M.D. Psychiatrist, Clinical Researcher and Director of the National Institute of Play offers some properties of play in his book Play, How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul.

1. Apparent Purposelessness – we don’t do it for it’s practical value, we do it for it’s own sake. Some people might even think it’s a waste of time.

2. It’s voluntary – nobody’s making you do it.

3. Inherent attraction – It’s just plain  fun. It make you feel good.

4. Freedom from time – When we’re really into it we lose a sense of time.

5. Diminished consciousness of self – We stop thinking about thinking. We stop worrying about how we look. We’re just doing it.

6. Improvisational potential – We aren’t locked in to one way of doing things. We’re open to trying different approaches, messing about, making it up as we go.

7. Continuation desire – It’s fun and when we’re done we want to do it again.

When those things are lost we risk losing that wonderful “exuberance of spirits” that is our reason to play.  Watching Katelyn’s performance, number seven really stands out – it’s fun and when were done we want to do it again.  If it’s not – it might be time to pause and pay attention.

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