Mindful Stretching To Release Stress
Mindful Stretching To Release Stress
Throughout our lives, we continually face the possibility of stressful experiences. Stress is all around us and it’s time to realize that no medical doctor or therapist is truly going to save us from the negative impact stress has on our body. We have to learn more about stress and take personal responsibility to discover new, and apply the best of the old findings, to beat it.
We are compelled physiologically, to rid the effects of stress on our body, our mind and our spirit. When stress obstructs our health, our vision for the future and even our relationships, it’s time to learn about the wisdom of the body! We humans possess an organic restorative capacity within our body to recover from the negative results of continuous stress. Yes, the human body is capable of healing itself, even from the most debilitating experiences. But it takes more than just time. It takes being aware of the body’s restorative ability and actively getting involved in bodywork.
At every stage of our adult development, our greatest ally is our body. It talks to us and is a pure reflection of what is happening to us and how we manage our life. One of the most awesome aspects of engaging in bodywork, is that our body, unlike the ego, cannot make things up. What it tells us, is pure and undistorted. It tells us that we are exhausted, emotionally empty, unhappy and/or simply living without any creative energy. It’s foolish to say ‘I’m coping’ and then rationalize about coping mechanisms.
There are successful ways to deal with stress when life doesn’t work out the way it is supposed to! We’re living in days of radical and revolutionary findings on the effect of stress on the body, the mind and emotions – with trailblazing solutions to beat stress.
I’ve studied the work of neurobiologists and neuroscientists who have done vast amounts of research into the physiology of trauma response – and although stress and anxiety are different and less severe than trauma, they have discovered that there is an interactive communication in the entire system between body and brain. Physical exercises (some of these very specific) do release chronic tension and restore an inner sense of peace and calm.
So, exercising is NOT just about getting your body in shape!
How smart is our body really?
The emotional pain we carry within us is not just in our head, it’s also etched into our muscles. Every muscle in our body has a series of mechanisms that are designed to contract and relax the muscles in times of danger as well as prolonged stress and anxiety. Most of us do battle with what’s happening to us (for example, resist the situation) and so inflict more suffering on ourselves. The truth is that resistance to any aspect of our lives, is counterproductive.
Fighting the event leads to increased suffering and our body is ‘paying’ the price. Correct exercises empower us to take recovery from emotional and mental pain into our own hands. Fact is: There’s more to being alive than just living! It’s time to tune into our body and into our physical health – for a healthy mind should be complemented by a healthy body. If our body is not working with us, we’ve got one more thing working against us.
One of the most effective keys to health and energy in times of stress, is setting our intention to take care of our body and making the time to re-power by doing slow and mindful stretches. When we participate in slow and mindful stretching, while breathing deeply, it is possible that we will relive a memory associated with the stressful event. This is ok. My advice is to fully accept the present moment, exactly as it is. When we try to just ‘get through’ it, it might appear that life moves on, though nothing has actually changed. We might have ‘left’ a particular difficult situation behind, but we remain the same! If we don’t ‘live and fully experience the present moment, then we are only reinforcing our weakness in the face of stress and anxiety, and it leaves us even more vulnerable to the next source of distress. Many don’t have the skills to deal with stress and then also don’t allow the stress to have the transformative effect it could have! The result is that these people remain vulnerable and unable to truly deal with any subsequent happening.
The body’s connection to the mind is astonishing. Whenever we are in serious stressful times, our brain triggers particular body movements to help us cope. It instructs certain organs to produce the chemicals necessary to survive. These chemicals are pumped into the muscles of the body to provide the necessary protection. Because the muscles contract every time we are exposed to stressful events, it is extremely important to ask ourselves: “What happens to the stress that has gone into our muscles?”
This question might lead you and me to empowering answers.
We need to do deliberate stretching exercises to allow the muscle tension to flow out of our bodies freely. Our nervous system should naturally deactivate itself by shaking out any residual tension-causing chemicals in our muscles – but most of us are too busy or just don’t make the time to re-power and use the wisdom of the body to help us!
Perhaps you have also seen people shaking after a stressful happening – well, I have seen this and also do this myself! Friends and family often see me shaking my hands, feet and even my legs to get rid of tension in my body. I grew up on a bushveld farm and my dad regularly shared stories with us about nature and animals. I can still recall how I saw many an animal shivering for a while after some fright or dangerous situation. It is the body’s way of systematically relieving the patterns of stress embedded in the muscles.
This shaking sends a signal to the brain informing it that the ‘danger’ has subsided and it’s safe to be calm. If the nervous system doesn’t activate itself, the body and especially the muscles hold onto the excess charge, and if they don’t get an opportunity to release this charge, they create chronic tension patterns within the body. (pain in shoulder blades, lower back, neck and a host of others.)
When we stretch mindfully, knowing about the body’s wisdom to release tension from our muscles, we are helping ourselves to cope and eventually flourish through otherwise unbearable times. Stretching releases deep chronic tension simply by activating the body’s natural coping mechanism, and restores the body to its natural state.
People who have learned how to manage stress successfully discover that their life is more productive. They have also developed more compassion, caring and sensitivity to the pain and stress of others. Life happens to all of us and although some people lead easier and less stressful lives than others, none of us escape difficult times entirely. Perhaps it is time to approach stress in a different way and align ourselves with what IS. For example: If your husband has lost his job, the only real solution is to accept the fact that he has lost his job. This isn’t easy – yet resisting the fact will make it worse. When you accept this devastating truth, your brain is able to work with you to cope and find answers to the problem! Exercising helps!
I have learned to accept the present moment in my life and not wish to be ‘somewhere else.’ I embrace this day in which we are invited to explore our stress until we can manage it creatively. When life turns up the heat, re-think your situation. Consider mindful stretching and accept stress as an inevitable part of life. Intentionally, transform your approach to manage stress by learning new behaviours such as slow and mindful stretching.
Knowledge is power. Learn about mindful stress releasing exercises. Ask your personal trainer about it and do some research. Remember: Learning is a treasure that will follow you everywhere you go!
It’s your life and you only have one!