Pavel Tsatsuline has written many books, most of which I’ve read. Decades ago, he wrote “Relax Into Stretch.” In the first chapter of the book, he makes the argument that fear keeps us from flexibility.
When we stretch a muscle, our nervous system feels fear that the muscle might be injured. The nervous system then tightens the muscle to prevent injury. The frozen muscle reaching its limits feels like pain to us. The muscle stops stretching.
By stretching, we keep our muscles in a lengthened position. If we stay in that stretched position long enough, the nervous system realizes it will not be injured and relaxes, this allows us to stretch even further. Pavel then goes into great detail explaining how to relax during stress and achieve better results. He then goes into PNF stretching and how to build an injury-proof body that can withstand all challenges.
Experiments have shown that flexibility can be increased under hypnosis because the brain can be convinced that the body is quite flexible and capable of great loads under stress. When conscious the brain intercedes the attainment of flexibility.
My partner in Karate teaching crime, Gil, once told me a story of a friend of his who went to China to train for a few months at the Shaolin Temple. When he arrived, he was already an accomplished martial artist. The Chinese assessed his situation by asking him to perform the full splits. He warmed up and went as far as he could go but was still a foot from sitting on the ground in full splits. They worked with him the rest of the afternoon, punishing him with hours of hard stretching, vigorous exercise, and application of herbs. By the evening, he was in full splits.
A few years ago, I was in Nashville for a martial arts seminar hosted by my sensei, Professor George Dillman. We were in a hotel conference room the entire day, practicing joint locks, pressure points, fighting, sparring, and self defense techniques. Like all hotel conference rooms, this one had commercial grade (cheap) carpeting over concrete floor. At the end of the day, we closed the seminar and prepared to go to Dragon Phoenix Chinese Buffet Restaurant for some fine dining. The Professor offered for the attendees to take pictures with him. A few students stood beside him to get their photo taken with the great George Dillman. Then George shouted, “Wait. If you really want a good picture.” He then without warmup, without hesitation, dropped into a full spilt. The man was in his 70s and had been standing on concrete all day. Most of us were tired and wanted to go eat, but the great George Dillman just dropped into the full splits like he was sitting at his desk to write a memo.
There is another really funny story about that seminar, and maybe one day I’ll tell it.
Flexibility is only hindered by fear. The body fears injury. So it freezes. Stretching hurts.
Fear keeps us stiff. Fear prevents flexibility. Fear counters movement. Movement halted by fear causes pain.
I’m no longer talk about your leg muscles.
I am talking about flexibility in your life. Learning new things, meeting new people, trying new adventures.
The mind can be convinced to relax during stress. I tell my clients that one can’t walk into a room and identify the stress. No one says, “There’s the stress, no, it’s over there.”
Stress is our reaction to our environment.
If you see a snake and jump on a chair, and I go pick up the snake and take it outside, is the snake the stress? If in line at the zip line, you are hyperventilating and convincing yourself that the line will break, you’ll get stuck, you’ll fall off, you’ll be killed, while I am shouting to make it go faster and last longer, is the zip line the stress?
Flexibility is about how you live your life.
A friend of mine recently decided to start going to a local kickboxing gym and now runs her own classes there. Another friend of mine just graduated her 100-hour Yoga Teach Training class. Another just started running and is continuously improving his times. He wants to be a fireman. I am finishing up massage school in July and will test for my license.
To be flexible you must be not afraid. To add value to your life, you must constantly try new things, set new goals, begin new projects, and attempt something different. This means you’ll have to fail a little every day. This hurts. This means you’ll have to meet new people, learn to fail at new things, and say “ahwell” a few times. You’ll have to throw away a few projects that can’t be reconciled. But it will teach you how to do it better next time.
Fear may reduce flexibility, but flexibility reduces fear. A flexible life means you can handle more adversity. This means your nervous system won’t enter the fight, flight, or freeze reaction. If you don’t freeze, you are less likely to be hurt.
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the nervous system to change its activity in response to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli by reorganizing its structure, functions, or connections after injuries. (NIH.gov) It means a flexible mind capable of learning new things.
Try new things, fail a little. Become more flexible. Solve some problems. Make your world and the world around you a little bit better.
Heck, even get on the floor and stretch your legs a bit.
Joe “Weeg” Weigant is a Holistic Health Practitioner and Empowerment Coach who specializes in combining physical bodywork, energy work, and metaphysical teaching to release trauma, reset the autonomic nervous system, and balance the energy systems of the body. This begins the healing process in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our lives. He encourages his clients to drop the white flag of victimhood and pick up the banner of empowerment.
Weeg sells herbal products by Nature’s Sunshine and Pure Herbs Ltd. and is a Representative for Juice Plus. Weeg teaches Karate and Tai Chi, Reiki Certification, as well as seminars and workshops in metaphysical and spiritual matters. Weeg is available for sessions at Tri State Holistic Wellness by appointment only.
Contact by text 812.568.5356, or Facebook Messenger to set an appointment.