Flexibility – the Tortoise and the Hare Revisited

There are some really dangerous practices out there in fadville and tearing muscles and damaging ligaments is just the beginning of the risks involved with trusting the wrong information or trainer with your body. Arming yourself with some good information and using some common sense can go a long way in avoiding injury. Forced stretching is also responsible for avulsion fractures – a situation where part of the bone in pulled away due to vigorous stretching techniques. The healthier you are, the quicker you can bounce back from injury however avoiding it altogether should be the goal of course.

My last post on flexibility may have been a bit more technical than most people like http://carol-schwarzkopf.com/2013/03/16/the-mystery-of-stretching-revealed/ so I wanted to follow-up with more information on this particularly important subject.

In reality, it’s often overlooked that your mobility now, at whatever age you are, will have a direct impact on how mobile you are as an elder and we should all, no matter our age, be concerned with this. We don’t want to wait until we are facing the consequences of our neglect to decide that caring for our bodies isn’t just a fad. It has a direct impact on our physical, emotional, and our spiritual health. So along with balance and strength, flexibility requires daily attention for your body and brain to be functioning at it’s best for many, many years. Once you lose your mobility, you also lose the freedom to travel where you want, how you want, and when you want. So there’s a lot at risk.

Luckily for us, there’s lots of worthy information and progressively more sophisticated methods of enhancing mobility/stretching that have less to do with stretching the muscles and more to do with stimulating trigger points. How this works in ridiculously simple terms goes like this: the brain receives a chemical message when a trigger point is stimulated and in turn ‘allows’ the further extension of the fascia and muscles. And all of this without the risk of injury that may impact your body and your activity for months and sometimes years.

Three points to consider here:

  1. The mind and how it ‘speaks’ to the body: The more you’re able to mentally control the amount of tension the body is holding, the more the physical body can relax and ‘allow’ relaxation and elongation into a stretch. This is a very important point – the brain is in charge here and guess who’s in charge of the brain. Yes you!! But like everything in life, the more you practice, the better you get at this and activities such as a regular meditation practice strengthens the mind. So the more you can influence the messages your brain hears, the greater your ability to affect outcomes – in this case, flexibility.
  2. The nerves, or your nervous system: These are the neural pathways the messages travel between the desired point of flexibility and the brain. It’s a good idea to keep the cobwebs and debris off this path as you want the best communication possible. Calming the parasympathetic nervous system is the first thing that comes to mind with activities such as yoga, deep relaxation and breathing exercises.
  3. The fascial system – That web of connective tissue that runs throughout the body that transmits mechanical tension is called fascia. Keeping the physical body free of tension is one of the best ways of ensuring that all the stretching you do each day utilizes your full range of motion. In addition, fascia needs regular ‘wringing action’, like a sponge, to continuously lubricate the physical body. Movement facilitates this. In short- move and don’t stop moving. Regular sessions of even the simplest movement such as dancing to your pandora, swinging the golf club, twisting in the garden, walking, or taking a bike ride- things most of us simply need to do more of, particularly as we age.

As a movement teacher in the field of wellness, I am tickled by how simple it really is to keep the body functioning at 100% which is the good news. The bad news is that we tend to be a pretty sedentary society and when you start from the disadvantage of being stressed out and inactive, things might get worse before they get better. But all of this would be so much easier if relaxation was more popular. We are idle so much we feel we need ‘boot camp’ when we do get going. We aren’t so good with that middle ground – remember in the end the tortoise does leave the hare behind.

But in case I’m not being clear, if you are particularly muscle-bound or generally inflexible you could benefit enormously from a weekly massage and a well-rounded daily fitness approach. The body always strives for balance – a balance between strength and flexibility, between front and back and right and left, between physical and mental stimulation. Extremes are not the slow and steady that win the race. Flashy, sexy, hot and trendy might be nice diversions but they probably weren’t in the master plan except for some exclamation points here and there.

One thought on “Flexibility – the Tortoise and the Hare Revisited

  1. Pingback: The Mystery of Stretching Revealed | CAROL SCHWARZKOPF

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