When we think of a strong body, we think of one that shows shape and can move mountains. We associate our muscles with this and we tend to think in terms of the content of these structures in the pursuit of this coveted strength. But muscle and its encasing fascia is one (even if vital) component of the whole picture of how a body develops its power. There has to be a driver of this, which also holds the capacity to regulate how efficiently our muscles are engaged for the present demand. Ideally, this means using what is needed, but sparring excess energy usage so the body, mind and emotions can come back to balance and allow healing to occur.
Our nervous system is the driver that orchestrates this complex series of actions that either create a well-tuned body in movement…or not. If we hold too much tension at rest or overexert in movement, we hold energy in the form of stiffness which puts that part of the muscle structure out of commission. If we don’t move regularly with intention and awareness we lack the physiology that enables a muscle structure to respond and produce strength. The nervous system is the sensor of input and the regulator of activation, tension and load. The muscles would literally do nothing without it.
So whether the issue is too much activation or not enough of it, we have to communicate with our nervous system to create the change we want. And one of the most profound ways to achieve this is through our felt sense awareness! If we’re performing a squat and we lack awareness of whether our glut muscles are engaging, it’s potentially a missed opportunity to functionally use these hip stabilizers. And when we hold chronic postural tightness and can’t feel that holding, we miss each moment of presence in which we can change this over activation wherever it lies. This subconscious behavior can be altered if we slow down to become aware and then provide new sensory input for the body to respond to.
Take one of the many self-release exercises we do…foam rolling our quads or IT bands, tennis ball in the gluts, etc. They’re oft performed with little awareness, except for the significant pain they cause when we’re very tight. We then tend to react with more resistance. What if, as we explore slowly, we discovered the true feeling we are experiencing in each moment and pause in stillness to feel the sensations that are being relayed? Then choosing not to force into areas that seem excruciating, but go to the edges of discomfort and intentionally feel. As a result we have a gauge of our body’s present state and we can then choose to change the story of how we engage. We have dozens of resources to use to feel goodness in our bodies that communicates to our nervous system that all is well…even as pain exists. But we will continue to select the pain pattern until we kindly ask the body to choose differently. See how and why I choose to ask the nervous system to participate…