Background Music (and therefore) My Current Mindset –
Artist: The Cinematic Orchestra
Album: Every Day
Intentional Exercise & Neural Pathways
Have you ever heard the expression “Just going through the motions”? When you are exercising, do you find yourself just going through the motions or are you moving with intent and purpose?
When I work with my clients I place emphasis on moving with purpose; to feel the exercise, to match their breathing to the movements, to relax certain muscles, and engage others. Moving with intent and purpose means you are stimulating a connection to grow between the brain/spinal cord and the rest of your body.
Thought – wish – desire – intention – neural signal – signal transfer by nerves – completion of intended action.
This is the neural process simplified. The job of the spinal cord is to convey the electrical impulses from the brain to the many nerves in the body which attach to the muscles, which carry out the desired action. Exercising and moving with intent strengthens this connection.
Let’s take performing a squat, for example. When you perform a squat, what is your thought process, if any? Do you perform the movement quickly and consider that to be complete and successful? Or is there a mental checklist you go through during the phases of the squat (starting posture, core engaged, where your weight is being held, breathing, muscles to relax, muscles to contract, finishing posture)? If having some sort of mental checklist describes your thought process, you are moving with intent. You are building a deeper connection between your nervous system (brain & spinal cord) and your muscular system.
We know that a strong connection between the nervous and muscular systems leads to greater muscle hypertrophy (growth) after multiple exercise sessions. If you are not seeing progress or change in your body, ask yourself, have you been just going through the motions?
Mental Stress & The Physical Body
Chronic stress has been called “the silent killer.” It compromises our immune system and it’s a major contributor to some of the most persistent and chronic diseases of our time, like heart disease, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s, depression, and more.
It’s also a fact that it’s increasingly harder to avoid excess and constant stress. Too many of us live our lives in a constant white-knuckled, jaw-clenched state with our adrenal glands working overtime—all of which results in stored toxins and blocked energy (or chi). We become physically, mentally, and emotionally stagnated, and our systems slow down.
It’s important to understand that stress is a reaction—we can choose how to react to stressful situations. Lugging emotions, trauma, guilt, resentment, and memories with us can compound day-to-day stress, to further age us, wreak havoc on our bodies and health, and result in serious long-term consequences, such as excess weight, anxiety, and even physical pain and poor posture.
5 Areas Where You Might Be Carrying Stress
Stress can get stuck in multiple places in our body, causing it to get congested and intensify. In these areas stress is literally contained within the body. We all have the ability to build awareness around how we react or respond to stress, and we can all take steps to eliminate stress that’s being stored in these “containers” within the body. The five areas are the jaw/neck/face, the shoulders/heart, the diaphragm/lungs, the stomach/gut, and the pelvic floor/hips.
Releasing Stress From The Body (Activity!)
Jaw, Neck, Face
Tension in jaw indicates blockage of emotional and verbal communication, fear of expression. Thoughts and emotions come together in the neck, stiffness is due to withheld statements. The face expresses the various “masks” of our personality, shows how we face the world.
- Masseter Massage: Place two fingers on either side of your jaw. Clench your teeth to feel the masseter muscle contract. Once you have found the muscle, apply light pressure, open and close your mouth 10 times, slowly. Next, massage your masseter muscle by applying light pressure with your fingers and move them in small circles. Do this for one minute.
- Neck Stretching: Sit up tall (on sits bones), clasp hands behind your back. Lean head from right to left 10 times, slowly. Next, make circles with your head, tucking your chin to your chest, back over the right shoulder, stretching back, forward over the left shoulder and back down to the chest, 10 times each direction.
Shoulders are where we carry the weight of the world and fear of responsibility. Tension in shoulders and heart relates to forgiveness.
- Shoulder Shrugs: Take a deep inhale, shrugging your shoulders up to your ears, feeling what it feels like to hold stress and tension in your shoulders – exhale and let your shoulders fall down, relaxed. 10 times.
- Snow Angels on Foam Roller: Lay with foam roller aligned vertically down your spine, hands starting by your side, palms facing the ceiling, raise your hands slowly until they are extended above your head, trying to keep you finger tips in contact with the floor throughout (as if to make an angel in the snow). Perform for 2 minutes.
The diaphragm is your power and wisdom center. Tension here relates to power issues and emotional control issues.
- Rib Breathing: Place your hands around your ribcage with your thumbs behind you. On the inhale let your hands feel your lungs and ribcage pushing out against them. On the exhale, lightly squeeze your ribs together with your hands as if to assist in squeezing the stress out of your body.
- Thoracic Spine Foam Rolling
Holding tension here can be a result of being too instinctual and over analyzing things. Not allowing yourself to speak your truth, feel empowered.
- Belly Breathing: Practice breathing deeper than your lungs, filling your entire diaphragm and belly with air. Challenges yourself to inhale and exhale slowly, for 6 seconds each.
Hips, Pelvic Floor
The hips are the seat of Kundalini energy, the root of basic survival needs and action. Holding tension in the hips relates to old memories, anger, loss, resentment, the need to control the past or present.
- Sumo Squat: Hold the sumo squat/deep squat position with hands in prayer hands position, taking deep breaths, exhaling negative energy, allowing the hips to open and deepen the stretch. Hold for 20 seconds, repeat 10 times.
I hope I have inspired you to deepen your mind-body connection and challenge you to move with purpose and intent in your next exercise session. If you are holding on to unnecessary stress, or have chronic body aches and pains, I believe the above mentioned activities are right for you. (Honestly, I believe it is right for everyone!) And always remember…
“When the mind and the body work as one, anything is possible.”