You can change your posture and make it last
Once you discover what muscle tension patterns your brain is replaying constantly to hold you in your posture, you can learn how to change them. Your brain will instantly change your posture according to the amount of tension that is released during a Somatics session and/or your own daily somatic routine.
A longer muscle is a stronger muscle
We often associate muscles that look “hard and puffed up,” like big biceps, as strong. But that might not always be the truth. For example, when working with shortened, chronically-contracted muscles, like those often found in the low back, once you begin relaxing the muscle tension, more muscle fibers become available for contraction when you need it. When you have more fibers available for contraction “on demand”, you naturally have more strength. Another important item is to understand is that we’re not just using one muscle when we do something. We use muscles throughout the body. Sometimes natural “chains” of muscle stop working together due to inefficient patterns of usage (or injury). When that happens, we lose the natural strength of the whole chain working together, for example, the back chain of muscle can get altered by too much sitting. As a result, we find that it becomes more difficult to stand up without using our hands/arms to push us up. That’s when it’s time to work with the quadriceps to release tension that cannot overcome the tension of the tight hamstrings to stand you up without your arms helping. You can change this at any age, assuming your nervous system is in good working order.
Stretching can make muscles even tighter
Have you ever noticed that when you stretch a muscle, it doesn’t tend to stay lengthened for long? The study of neurophysiology sheds some important light on one of the most misunderstood areas of human physiology. Our brains have a built-in Stretch Reflex which is engaged when you suddenly stretch or pull on a tight muscle. The body’s goal is to protect that muscle from injury and will you will find that a muscle (or group of muscles) that you continually stretch may become chronically tight and hard to the touch. A softer, more resilient muscle (feels like jello when pressed lightly with the fingers) will move you with the most efficiency.
To relieve a cramp or muscle spasm, tighten the opposite muscle, or its antagonist
We often do this without realizing it, especially with common muscles that cramp, such as the hamstrings (back of upper leg). The best way to release a hamstring cramp is to contract the opposing muscle group, the quadriceps, which you would do by straightening the leg. This is called reciprocal inhibition and almost instantaneously releases a spasm.
Releasing unnecessary muscle contractions in the body can improve overall coordination
Your core is the only area of your body without bone (other than spinal vertebrae). When the muscles that operate this part of your body are free of residual tension when at rest, you will be more flexible and coordinated during movement.
Core confusion is rampant, as many people believe back pain results from weak abdominal muscles
The truth is that back pain often results when the back muscles are too tight, rather than the opposite. For proper posture and mobility, we need to balance the tension between the flexor muscles (front of the body) and extensor muscles (back of the body).
If one side is winning the “tug of war” battle, your posture will tilt to that side. Look at your body posture from the side in a full-length mirror sometime. Which side is winning the battle? Also, you can lightly palpate or touch the muscles in your low back with flat fingers and sense whether the muscle feels more like Jello or steel. If you feel steel, and you know it’s not bone, and your back hurts, you might ask yourself, what would my back feel like (pain-wise), if these muscles were softer to the touch? A softer muscle means that it’s not being held in constant contraction. When you are not using your back, the muscles should be at rest, waiting for a signal from the brain to contract when you want to move. Some people work their abdominals so much that they tilt forward, or hunch forward, or their head is forward on their torso when standing. What happens to your back in this case? The back is constantly in a state of being s t r e t c h e d by the pull of the body forward (brought to you by chronically-tight abdominal muscles). If this is what is happening in your body, ask yourself, why would my back hurt if it is being continually stretched? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do to keep muscles long? Hmmm….scientists studying neurophysiology have known this all along, yet our culture seems thoroughly addicted to constant, even-painful, stretching.
Stress has a physical dimension — muscle tension!
You can dramatically relieve the effects of stress on the body by lengthening over-tightened muscles and in the process, switch your nervous system out of sympathetic dominance. The best “setting” is a balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic, which feels like a comfortable resting state in terms of heart rate and breathing. Cold, clammy hands and feet will also warm up. Best of all, you will experience an overall sense of relaxation, like the nice feeling you get after a good yawn.