Wednesday, September 9, 2015
WE IMAGINE RELAXING muscles and fascia, but relaxing releases nerve responses, that then relax muscle and fascia. The first act—the “egg”—might be the nerves, and the “chicken”—second, the muscles and fascia.
When we push muscles and ligaments, emphasizing strength, balance or quick transitions, it is difficult to imagine how we do not excite nerves rather than relax nerves (as well as provoke other agitated chemistry that comes to us mentally and in lessened sport performance in a burn of lactic acid buildup).
Pushing muscles and ligaments does have an effect. It is the core of the physicality of much of the 20th Century yoga out of India into the West. But as yoga poses mature with a strong nod to “flexibility” (really, still a “fitness” term), perhaps a revolutionary leap out of a fitness mindset shift to, perhaps, a “suppleness” mindset that attends not only to muscles and ligaments, but also to the fascial structure of muscles, ligaments, sheets of fascia, organs and on-and-on ad infinitum.
Having been “physical” most of my life, there are other approaches worth consideration, involving, for example, a new language of “wellness,” (that is still quite heavily laden with “fitness” strategies) and then, “optimal health/thriving” that is still in an embryonic state and in need of new terminology.
Let’s imagine, for a moment, not pushing muscles and fascia, but rather, trying to do the opposite. Under anesthesia, muscles and ligaments are experienced to become pliant/flexible to the point of bones being capable of dislocation. It’s not the muscle and ligament action that is doing this. It is the nerve channels. The nerves in anesthesia are, metaphorically speaking, “turned either down or off.”
We can use this fact in deep stretching. Rather than “push to an edge to drive out pain (“no pain, no gain”), we might just relax and “stretch” (inducing no pain, gain). Rather than exciting nerves to the point of discomfort, we might use whatever we have to use [blocks, blankets, pillows, bolsters] to support and open to then follow the release of spindles—micro-coils of nerve tissue in muscles and (under another name) in fascia.
Something new here: “spindles,” and how they operate.
And then, given spindles, something new here because of how spindles function:
Our focus on muscles and ligaments and sheets of fascia that we push to stretch might dramatically shift to something new—to a focus on nerves as the real interface.
In shifting the focus to nerves, we might aspire to relax them rather than excite and agitate them.
Go to any gym in the world, and note how little time is spent stretching. In the hyper-flexibility gyms of acrobatics especially in rigid nation-states, find workouts next to torture (usually of the most flexible youth, which they endure to basically survive). Many people are engaged in “yoga,” but many more are turned away after their first session by a fitness strategy that suggests to them that when in pain, keep going and it will eventually go away.
For the average person, stretching takes them back to gym class where stretching was the key agony of gym class. “Stretching” back then and still now means hurting until you decide to quit, and it is far less enjoyable than the hardest physical workout.
But what if you could do some aerobics for “cardio” somewhere in the plan, and then spend some real time, not minutes, stretching WITH THE SENSE THAT THIS TIME WOULD BE ENJOYABLE? In this process, THE STRETCH MIGHT BE GRADUAL. And this process would REQUIRE that the pose be comfortable/enjoyable. And for purpose? To calm the nerves to promote the release of spindles. And what is the purpose of that?
Without analyzing an outcome, stretching for a time would naturally “deepen,” which is to say, the pose would continue to change, wherein the body “softens” rather than tenses. Such a pose would occur across a small span of time or “come to us” across a small span of time (after Vanda Scaravelli) rather than be something static that we assume and hold.
So perhaps, not muscles or ligaments, but nerves, …and relax.
See additional posts in Islands Of Grace:
Holding Poses & Spindle Release 2/18/12
Releasing Vs. Conditioning 6/9/15
Allow The Pose To Come To You 12/3/13
Aruksita Yoga—The Supple Body 11/27/13
Slow Cookin’ 6/6/13
Stretch & Relax 10/2/12