Athletes spend hours each week to alleviate physical restraints such as tightness in muscles and aching areas. Fitness based magazines or websites hail flexibility programs as recommended means for injury prevention. While coaches and therapists enforce the importance of stretching in warming up and down before intense training.
Stretching has been placed on a pedestal so you can imagine the response when people ask for my advice on stretching and I reply with a simple “It’s something I no longer routinely do”.*
Stretching is peculiar to the human being.
Racehorses don’t stretch.
A dog can be sound asleep then suddenly take off towards an intruder at speed. They don’t tear hamstrings or have a need for warm-ups.
Children are much freer of emotional restraints and inhibitions and they too can take off at speed without fear of tearing a hamstring. There’s no reason why adults can’t do this either. Once they have removed emotional restraints and attitudes that contribute to excessively increasing the background tone of one’s muscular system – including the tautness in a person’s facial expressions.
You know the feeling of trying to workout while or going through turmoil – you’re limbs feel like ten-tonne bricks and energy levels are an all-time low. Lactate levels feel off the charts and it doesn’t take much for you to tire easily.
Why Any Flexibility Program Won’t Work Unless You Change Your Attitudes
Many people consider themselves “tight” or “inflexible”. However, if these people were to be given a general anaesthetic, the surgeons would be able to move their limbs around basically wherever they wish, way past points that the person would be capable of themselves. Funnily enough, upon waking the person would be none the wiser. However as soon as they restore their consciousness, their attitudes, perceptions, patterns of beliefs, fears, prejudices and biases come back online, then this is reflected in the re-acquisition of their physical constraints.
Flexibility is a state of being, which includes both a person’s physical and emotional realms.
The origins of Yoga, for example, were founded upon the theme of devotees developing flexibility, or openness of mind and from this enhancement of mental state, emotional intelligence would emerge and the body became naturally free of physical restraints (which were then demonstrated by the devotees in the form of unrestricted physical maneuvering of their bodies). However many forms of modern-day yoga, for example, attempt to reverse engineer this process, by just focusing on stretching and hoping that this will positively alter a person’s mental and emotional states.
Personal mentor and founder of the NeuroPhysics Therapy phenomenon Ken Ware explains further “There’s separation between our physical aspects and our emotional aspects. We cannot experience any form of emotion without the realization of a physical sensation. Likewise, you cannot do anything physical without emotion being attached to the action. However, it is an absolute that physical restraints and crisis follow emotional restraints and crisis.”
What does all this mean?
One thing is for sure, you can’t stretch attitude, beliefs, fear or biases out of a person. The tightness in peoples’ hamstrings, neck and lumbar regions is unquestionably associated with the net sum of their emotional states.
Does this ring true?
Stretching is commonly used in a lot in physical therapy for the conditions that are inaccurately ‘deemed’ as pure physical conditions. While stretching may sometimes offer temporary relief, it does nothing to address the underlying root cause of a person’s problems. If the person does not change their behaviour, their perception of their environment and themselves, then all the stretching in the world isn’t going to enable them to improve upon their condition one bit.
The fundamental reality of stretching is simple. When you stretch a rubber band, for instance, energy and information in the form of memory are released. When the rubber band is then released, energy and information/memory are restored but never the same amount that was released from the system when it was stretched. A rubber band that has been stretched over and over, will eventually lose too much information/memory to be able to return itself to its original orderly state. This represents a gross loss of this systems integrity.
Ken goes on “Fundamentally, we can only be on one of two possible states. We are either in a state of ‘growth’, or a state of ‘protection’. We can never be the middle. This would be like trying to be happy and sad at the same time. However, the modern-day ‘bigger – stronger – faster’ world is taking its toll. The baseline measurement of tension in the average person’s trapeze, lower backs and hamstrings has escalated incredibly over the last 10 – 15 years. ‘Hypervigilance’ is the term used to describe these excessive physical/ emotional states. The emotional regions of our brain dictate to the regulation of our hormones, the immune system and our states of arousal. This involves the cardiovascular system and the muscular system. The effects of being ‘ramped up’ long-term can take a toll on a person’s physical, mental and emotional health. These can manifest into many of the chronic conditions that are epidemic today. Chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, neuropathic pain, complex regional pain syndrome, frozen shoulder syndrome and anxiety & depression are just a few.”
The temporary pain relief that people may acquire from stretching, is also associated with this temporary loss of information/memory. When someone performs a hamstring stretch, for instance, they may feel temporary pain relief that was assisting with the maintenance of the hypervigilance they have in these muscles. However, in the absence of any positive behaviour changes, the system will always return back to its pre-stretching hypervigilant state.
Simply learning to self-monitor and control arousal throughout the day, will go a long way in reducing problematic hypervigilance.
On a personal note, this has been especially true. Constant repetition allows our brain to perform sequences automatically. The more we repeat a task the more mindless it becomes. By learning to exercise specifically in an emotionally controlled manner – minus the use of competing information coming in ie. headphones, distractions – overall health and well-being are enhanced while alleviating the need for specific time-consuming stretching.
Some relative links:
Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22316148
* Sometimes I fall into old patterns while not been as routine as I would like with my ‘clearing of information”(through techniques Ken has taught me at Neurophysics). As spiritual as it sounds – Ken’s work is science-based with everything we do, think, say affecting us in unconscious ways. It’s not until I do practice ‘self-healing’ and ‘recentering hemispheres of the brain’, that I feel, limber, free of constraints and less emotional driven.