Sometimes, even after doing all the right things, some tight and tense areas just refuse to go away. This happens when not the muscle itself, but the fascia – or more precisely cells in the fascia called myofibroblasts – have contracted. This happens in response to either severe or ongoing stress of both physical or emotional nature. The body can hold these contractions indefinitely. They are often made worse by too aggressive stretching or exercise. However, when done gently and safely, we can release these tight strings that prevent us from finding balance and ease.
Here’s an example: You are having trouble with your right leg. First it’s the knee, then the hip. Stretches don’t seem to do anything. Exercises just make it hurt. You try PT, massage, get x-rays, nothing. Finally your friend talks you into seeing their myofascial therapist. At first, you’re skeptical because they don’t seem to be doing much. But after the first session your leg feels a bit better. Your therapist sends you home with instructions to perform some gentle yoga exercises, asking you to stay present in your body and observe. During the second session you remember a bad fall off your bike when you were eight. Your right foot got caught and badly wrenched. It almost seems like you are back there, yet at the same time you are present now! You feel a shift in your leg. A lot of the pain is gone! The next time you do your stretches at home, you can feel some remaining tension in your foot and ankle. Now you know how to observe it, breathe into it, and gently allow the tissues to release. You notice that the exercises that used to hurt are starting to feel good! Over time the tightness comes back less and less.
Many of the patients who come to my office have no awareness of how restricted they are. “Wow, I had no idea that that is so tight!” is something I hear every day. The first step in releasing the restrictions is to be able to feel them. This takes quiet patience and observance of our body, which is something many of us have not practiced in years. Sometimes it is even scary, as some restrictions may be tied to painful memories. An easy way to start “self-unwinding” is to lie down on your back on the floor (or in whatever position is comfortable for you), relax, and focus on letting your belly rise and fall gently with every breath. Picture your breath softly inflating all parts of your body and notice areas that feel like they won’t allow this to happen. Turn off all judgement and follow your intuition as you slowly move into a position that lets the air flow into the restricted area.
Thank you for reading! I hope this little series gives you some ideas and tools to address tension in your own body. Of course, if you would like more information, or if you would like help with any of the three challenges, please do get in touch!