When your body is tight, it’s trying to protect you.
Logically, many of us assume that tight muscles need to be stretched. That is how we can loosen them and remove the tension, right? In reality, that rarely actually works because tight muscles are a protective mechanism. If your muscles are tight, your brain is trying to protect your body because there is something that is making your brain feel unsafe.
The body is designed to survive times of threat. Tension and tight muscles are the body’s ways of guarding or inhibiting its ability to move in order to protect itself. Basically, when the body (the brain) does not feel safe, it places restrictions on the body by tensioning the muscles so that it doesn’t move into dangerous territory.
When your hamstrings are tight, your body is not asking you to stretch them—it’s telling you that you’re not safe; there is a danger somewhere that needs addressing. To stretch tight hamstrings in order to loosen them is like trying to override the body’s safety protocols to keep you from injuring yourself. The tension (aka “tight” muscles” is your brain is trying to both protect you and get your attention.
Force doesn’t make the brain feel safe; gentleness does.
Observe a person who is breathing up in their chest with shoulders rising and falling: they are using their emergency breathing muscles instead of their diaphragms. Breathing up in the chest tells the brain, “Fight, flight or fawn.”
When the brain is in danger, it battens down the hatches of the body, placing tension (fear) and tightness in the parts of the body that it deems to need more tension (like the hamstrings).
Help the Body Feel Safe in 7 Minutes
Parasympathetic breathing and and reflexive moving are often all it takes to gently give the brain the information it is looking for and needs to feel safe.
Movements like rocking back and forth help to soothe the brain and also let the brain know where every single joint, muscle, and tissue in the body is located. When the brain can see where everything is, the brain feels safe enough to let go of fear and allow the body to move optimally. Superpower has just the solution, with 7 minute resets like the one below, for each major muscle group.
Text Neck Reset
Try this set of resets daily to help your neck, upper back and shoulders feel amazing. Do not move to past the point of pain/strain.
- 10 PSNS (parasympathetic nervous system) Breaths: Inhale for a count of 4. Hold the breath for a count of 4. Exhale for a count of 4. Repeat up to 10 breaths. Practice this breathing exercise to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (aka “rest and digest” mode).
- 10 Shoulders Rolls: Roll your shoulders forward and backward.
- 10 Head Nods: Touch your chin to your chest, then look up as high as you can. Lead with your eyes, letting your head follow your eyes. Repeat 10 times.
- 10 Head Turns: Turn your head to the left as far as you can comfortably. Then to the right. Again, leading the motion with your eyes turning first, then your head following your eyes. Repeat 10 times.
- 5 “Ribs Down” Breaths: Take 5 deep breaths. Keep your lips together and your tongue resting lightly on the roof of your mouth. Breathe in and out through your nose. Filling your lungs – belly first, then your chest. Breathing as full as possible requires you to decrease that slouched posture!
- 10 Spidermans: Begin on the floor, on your hands and knees in a quadruped position. Step your right foot outside your right hand. Lift your right arm; as you turn toward your front knee, raise your thumb up toward the ceiling while following your raised hand with your eyes. This rotates your neck and upper back, helping that lower trapezius muscle in the back of your shoulder to turn back on! Keep breathing normally through your nose and into your belly as you put that arm and leg back to the starting position. Repeat that movement on the other side for a total of 10 reps on each side.
- 10 Rocks: Begin on the floor, on your hands and knees in a quadruped position. Rock forward and backward, keeping your shoulders and hips parallel to the sky. Stop before your pelvis “tucks” under or your low back “sags” toward the floor.
- 10 Child’s Pose Breaths: Make your way into Child’s Pose. Breath in through your nose, filling up your lungs; exhale through your mouth.
As always, if your discomfort continues to worsen, seek out a professional for assistance. Your doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor, massage therapist and fitness coaches are all here to help!
Need help with low back, hamstring or mid-back stiffness? Reach out to us here and we’ll help you customize a program to help you feel better and stronger than ever before!