Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nerves and Muscles

There are two parts to every nerve: sensory and motor. If you touch a hot stove, the sensory part of your nerve tells you the stove is hot. The motor part of the nerve tells the muscle to contract and pull your hand off the stove. A lot of motor function is autonomic and automatic. We never have to think about a lot of motions and movements once they are learned.

The point here is that we cannot just stretch muscles if we wish to become flexible. Someone can go to a stretching/yoga class, try real hard, make a little progress, and in four months their net gain in flexibility is small. Why? Their motor nerves are still sending a message to the muscle to stay tight. From learned physical responses, old injuries, bad posture, work habits, emotional stress, the body learned to keep a certain amount of tension in the body.

Only by stretching with the proper mindset can correct this. It is the mind that tells the nerves what to do, which in turn tell the muscles what to do.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Strength from Stretching

Thnk about this: muscles do one thing, and one thing only. Contract. You can get stronger by lifting weights and doing calisthenic exercises. That is a good thing.

Stretching lengthens your muscles, so for a given contraction, you get more work when your muscles are stretched out. Stretching consistently over time, widens your muscles, so they have more pull when you use them with less chance of injuries. If a muscle is tight, you can only contract it so much. Let us take the bicep muscle. If there is tension in the muscle, and it is tight, by let's say, 20 percent, you cannot use that 20 percent when you contract it to lift something.

However, if there is minimal tension in the muscle, you can use more of the muscle to lift something. Stretching can help you utilize what muscles you have to do more work.

So, stretching makes you stronger.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

An Idea regarding Muscles..

I wanted to share an insight with you. A reader asked a question regarding using a weight to press down on a limb to help get more stretch.

Muscle cells are interesting. If you push on one, they push back. I mean this on a cellular level. So using a weight may be counter productive because while you are sitting in half lotus with
a weight on the leg, for example, your leg is actually contracting against the weight! The result is very little if any gain in flexibility. You may feel stretch, but you are TRAINING the muscle to contract.

When I teach stretching, I am not only working to stretch the muscle, but to retrain the nerve that is holding it tight.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Almost here

The new DVD How to Stretch, Vol. 1, should be here any day now. I will post it here and on my website, maybe a youtube video as well. Thanks for your patience. I think it will be worth it.