Muscle tension increases from poor posture, emotional stress and body overuse, making it a major culprit to pain and discomfort. I spend a lot of time with clients decreasing tension before we can even get started on the work that actually makes a permanent change.
Whilst January is a month where motivation is high, I often see an increase in muscle tension from overuse. Remember, our physical body dislikes repetitive movement as this leads to imbalances. However, it loves a mix bag of moving in all directions because different muscles are getting worked all the time.
Therefore when working out, keep the muscle-work balanced. For example, if you know you're over-active in quads then strengthen your hamstrings and foam roll your quads. If you know you're strong in your chest, then work the muscles in between your shoulder blades and do some delicious arm circles and stretch out your chest.
Over here in my holistic realm of body balance & energy I approach healing by collecting a few helpful bits and pieces and integrate them with body movement. I’ve put together a Ritual for Muscle Tension Release which includes not only movement but also some self massage, deep breathing and a magical muscle balm.
Foam rolling is away to self massage. Rolling over your calves, fronts and backs of thighs and bum muscles do wonders for lower back pain, knee and ankle injuries. Rolling out your mid-back is lovely for releasing tension in upper shoulders and neck.
The longer 90cm foam rollers are the best because the length means you can turn them into an exercise prop too. Get the one without the nobbles. When it comes to releasing pent up tension, a lot of the time brute force only makes muscles tighter. Here is a playlist that incorporates the foam roller.
Breathing for muscle release should be deep, slow and into your pelvis. The idea is to use the breath to come out of your sympathetic nervous system (flight or fright mode/stress mode) and ground yourself. Your seed-centre is where all the magic happens, physically & energetically (more on this in another journal entry) so using this as an anchor when you know you are tense is a great way to soften and ground back down.
Spine Articulation Exercises:
Exercise that encourages you to tune into and move your spine. Your nerves run off your spine and innovate your body. If you can soften at the level of the spine, it will have a very nice impact on the rest of our body/periphery. Here is a Movement Ritual for Muscle tension release.
Finding an effective muscle balm to always have at hand has been a saviour for me for most of my life. From my competitive basketball days, to my Kungfu training, through to now, where sometimes I teach too many movement sessions, I find it useful to have a balm that soothes whilst I relax. I generally use it at night because it aids sleep too. The one I use is by Elements Boutique Spa as it penetrates deep into the muscle and really helps clear unnecessary muscle tension.
Here is a bit about what goes into the muscle balm and why it’s so good. Sara Last, co-founder of Elements Boutique Spa has worked with various spas like Espa, Cowshed, Aromatherapy and Associates and Bamford and after having 2 kids and moving to Cornwall, she's decide to create her own range. I asked her to give us a paragraph about the muscle balm:
"I think our muscle balm is very special, the gel like formula soaks in quickly which is great post exercise and it gently heats the area, which I find really soothing. Essential oils of eucalyptus, rosemary and peppermint help relieve tired and achy muscles and smells beautiful, very Spa like. All our range is vegan, cruelty free and natural."
So there we have it. Over all the take home message is to decrease tension where you can and here is a ritual that can help. A Ritual for Muscle Tension Release!
With love, deep breathes and softening movement,
Photo from last summer's retreat - the Summer of (self)Love. Ahh take me back to this!