Tiny Movement Session

Remember when we talked about stillness and stiffness? This is for those of us not moving around much because of low-level pain.

As we eek into the winter months walking and moving becomes even more important. Light a fire, turn on the electric baseboard, get cozy, letting  your muscles warm up and join me for a Tiny Movement Session.

Okay, let’s try an exercise (you might or might not want to be alone for this 😉

  1. Feel what the hamstring muscle feels like when you lift up your leg into a march.
  2. Okay, it moved, great! Put it down.
  3. If it moves without pain, continue the exercise. If not, evaluate your level of pain. If you’re on the scale over 5, I don’t recommend this exercise—yet. Work with your healer or physical health provider and come back to this later if they don’t teach you.
  4. If  your pain level is lower, let’s continue. Lift into a march again. You’re engaging. Focus on the muscle. Be in the muscle, but don’t overthink it. Okay. Put the leg down.
  5. Think of your foot. Look at that foot.
  6. Pretend you’re a dog for a moment, twitch your nose, sniff, paw the ground. Bark and whine. Really take a moment to act like that animal. Gently moving your hands and feet to pretend you’re running beneath the moon. (Pick any animal!)
  7. Now lift into a march again and think of your hamstring engaging. Feel it engage. Put it down, feeling.
  8. Stop focusing on it. Stop.
  9. Look at your foot.
  10. Be a dog.
  11. Repeat twice on each side.
  12. Do it a few times a week or every day.

In the future, when you’re just walking on your legs, (flipping your hair), you will occasionally notice the engagement of your muscle in your consciousness, and it won’t be tense, and it won’t just be your leg struggling to feel connected to your pelvis or all chill and just along for a shuffle. It will just feel good, and you will say, “Well done, Leg!”

What’s the point? I’m asking you to connect with your muscle without thinking about the mechanics of it, just being in the body, feeling it work, make the movement and then letting go. Overthinking this action in the moment can make things go a bit awry. For example, though your ego is not your hamstrings, your brain still has important work to do—it sends signals to the body. We’re working to clear this pathway of fear and doubt. That’s why it’s so important to approach this with baby steps. First, we make the movement and observe we can do it, we test the waters. Second, we let the shield down (I can move!) And third, we do the exercise just a few times, engaging the muscle and then taking a break to something safe, something tangible: thought stopping: “There’s my foot.” And then a different tangible activity: dog. We’re slowly teaching our body and proving to the parts of ourselves that forgot that this pathway still exists, and we’re ready to make the connection. And we’re safe, it’s okay.

Keep making your nice movements into a little routine and before too long your body will surprise you.  Movement will feel like a whole new world and your blood vessels will be on parade with a light march that engages your hamstrings with purpose—not relaxed, yet not tense.

This is relevant for anyone who has been suffering from pain or stiffness, it’s surprising but our bodies need a little help getting in the saddle again—so to speak (but too soon for riding, getting on a horse is really rough on a very tight body that hasn’t been moving much). This is just one technique I learned that helped me ease into using this huge, awesome muscle group without injuring it while also encouraging my neurons to fire as they were meant to fire. You can use this technique on multiple muscles. Be curious and be gentle with yourself.

Our bodies are so strong, but we owe it to them to listen and be gentle, too. The healing process is important, and it is just that, a process. My expectations of my body are still very high, and though I am getting better, it’s still a challenge to shut my brain up and say “Whoa, Ego, you’re on break, I can’t sit here and write for hours—and I have to pee.”

 

 

Credit and Disclaimer: I adopted this method from the many treatments I have had for chronic pain in the last four years. The information on this website is not intended to diagnose, heal, or treat any health condition, disease, or injury. 

Stiffness, Stillness, and Movement

I just finished a month-long movement challenge. To me, making movement a part of my day has been less about an intense, fitness program and more about noticing what my body needs and wants. Am I tired? Am I tense? Stressed? Sore? Maybe dehydrated?

Movement can be anything from pacing when you’re on a phone call to working at a standing desk with an option to sit, from playing hopscotch to going for a walk, stretching, swimming, sex, painting, paddling, yardwork, yoga. It can be working on your posture while you watch your favorite show or read this article.

It wakes up your body and helps you get out of your head. It brings you oxygen and often reminds us to drink more water. It also helps you to be still.

Be still? Why is being still connected to movement? When you’re stuck on something, stillness enables you to think about it calmly without being restless to move onto something else or becoming consumed with resolving it to the point of anxiousness. Often, when we’re restless, it’s because our body needs to expel energy. To exchange old energy for new energy. But if we never give energy the chance to renew, restlessness can seep into many areas of our lives. Thus, practicing movement allows us to also practice stillness. We cannot have this stillness without movement.

Both are important for overall health. Consider a child who hasn’t played all day and is bouncing off the walls when you want them to settle down. Without movement, the child has all their energy buzzing with no outlet. This doesn’t change when we get older. Notice your partner furiously tapping their foot at dinner, or palming the side of the couch again and again with a trace of aggitation? Notice having an unpleasant night’s sleep and waking tangled in the sheets? As we age, we simply take on more responsibilities and create tons of energy inside our minds. Movement remains the most important way our bodies dispel all this extra energy, allowing us time to rest and heal.

Are you new to movement or recovering from a long-term injury or pelvic pain? Not moving for hours without the explicit purpose of sleep or mental rest is damaging to tissues, I refer to this as stiffness. As a result of stiffness, overstretching the body is very easy.

Here’s a tip if you feel stiff: ease into any movement (regardless how small it is) to prevent muscle tears. Our muscles are pretty delicate when they haven’t been moving because they are so tight. When you begin a movement routine, make your stretch only a fraction at the beginning. Add a little more as you go, without any bounce. We don’t want to be scared of moving, but I know that’s not always easy. Think of this as fun, be curious and patient. Be especially nice to your neck and hips. It’s probably not going to feel good if you lift really heavy things or get on a pogo stick or trampoline. Walk, it’s okay to go slow. You will gain speed at the perfect time for you.