Reach for the sky… Or to a high self to dust an ornament. Is this awkward? Likewise have you noticed squatting to a low cupboard has become difficult? Why?
This is because we loose elasticity in our muscle fibres, through age, injury or habit. What can we do about it? Take up instinctive stretching and whole body movements like yoga and Tai Chi.
Instinctive stretching where you bring all of your attention to the sensory information your body is sharing with your brain. Your body is full of a variety of little stress receptors that measure temperature, pressure, elasticity, acidity etc. This feedback of your internal environment is essential information for your brain so that it can regulate everything, keeping order and balance of your whole system, a process called homeostasis.
Have a go. Maybe a shoulder feels stiff or achy. Gently bring a small circular or wave like motion to it. Explore it’s possibilities from a place of stillness, slowly expanding into fractionally bigger movements. Can you do this without a sense of clunking or pain? Stay at this range for several breaths. Pause. Explore again. Keeping it small. Be led by the sense receptors in your body rather than by any external concept of what the movement”should be”. After a few minutes of this mindful moving compare this shoulder to the other one. Perhaps it feels looser, freer or just lighter? Or perhaps you’ve not noticed any change. It doesn’t matter. Trust in the body’s ability to use the movement information for good. With practice it becomes easier to notice this type of sensory information and notice small reductions or tension or stress.
Tai Chi uses this same awareness, yet you are moving your whole body. The circular and spiral nature of the forms asks for rotation, stretch and contraction of muscle groups. This increases blood circulation which brings nutrients to the cells and clears waste products. The spiral movement is similar to twisting and untwisting of rope fibres, freeing them from each other, enabling different groups of tissue to glide more easily. Thus with repeated practice making movement easier over time. The complexity of creating continuous change in a flowing manner does wonders for your concentration and therefore your relaxation. Students say there’s no time to think of anything else. So it calms the mind and becomes very refreshing.