Why going slowly is important
As a massage therapist, I’m always evaluating my clients’ posture; both while standing and in motion. This evaluation acts as a guide to help loosen facia and muscle tension and thereby alleviate the pain the client is experiencing. All too often, clients are unaware of their own posture and how poor posture is causing them to develop improper muscle patterns that cause their pain.
The very word posture reminds me of my Mom
nagging lovingly telling me to sit up straight, shoulders back, chin up. While this certainly does help avoid slouching, (thank you Mom) this often leads to the misconception that one must adopt a rigid, almost military-esque stance. However, the degree of effort needed to make that position happen is exhausting and people often overcompensate, creating more tension throughout the muscular and fascial system. This is why I like to describe posture not as one static position but as relationships in your joints that allow for more freedom and ease.
Our bodies are designed to be efficient. It is programmed to allow biological processes to run without you having to think of them like breathing, and digestion. Another one of those processes is the stretch reflex, which detects how far a muscle is stretched. As the muscle is stretching a tiny little guy called a muscle spindle detects how far and how quickly the muscle is moving. It is designed as a protective measure for muscles, to prevent tearing. If the muscle is pushed too far past ‘normal length’ an impulse is sent immediately to contract the muscle, protecting it from being pulled forcefully or beyond the normal range.
How is the stretch reflex connected to posture? It helps maintain proper positioning. A slight lean to either side (or anything outside of the normal) causes a stretch in the spinal, hip and leg muscles to the other side, which is quickly countered by the stretch reflex. This is a constant process of adjusting and maintaining the joints and muscles. The body is constantly under push and pull forces from the outside, one of which is the force of gravity. Over time, our muscles may learn a new resting position because of the patterns in our lives, such as, sitting for long periods or slouching and the reflex is overridden.
How do I change this habit? It took time for you to develop the posture and now it’s going to take time to rectify the problem. You have to proceed slowly and think about what muscles you are actually moving during the day and change the firing pattern. The more intensely or quickly you do something, the more likely you are to revert to old habits. To do something you’ve been doing for a long time, but in a different way, requires one to slow down, and perhaps regress things for a while AND concentrated effort. You can’t slow down and suddenly move the way you need to. This will take a concentrated effort.
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