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Body Pain Comes From Weak Communication Between Muscles And Brain, And These 5 Yoga Poses Can Help

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Body Pain Comes From Weak Communication Between Muscles And Brain, And These 5 Yoga Poses Can Help

We all know that stretching,[1] to some degree, helps to relieve muscle tension and tightness. However, some complain that the benefits of stretching provides only short-term, minimal relief at best, making it a waste of time and energy. In order to truly understand muscle tightness and how to reap the benefits of stretching, one must first understand the complexities of the muscle and brain connection.

Muscle tension begins with messages from the brain to contract certain fibers in your body. Chronic stress, however, leads your brain to contract muscles of your body that are not needed in order to perform particular tasks.[2] In these instances, stretching alone will only provide minimal relief for muscles.

How Stretching Impacts The Muscles

So what happens when you stretch?[3]

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New scientific revelations show that stretching is much more complex, dynamic, and fascinating than what has previously been imagined.

We now understand that increasing our flexibility has much less to do with the physical length, size, and shape of our muscle tissue, and much more to do with the part of our body that controls and moves our muscles: our brain. Stretching regularly allows us to reach our stretch “tolerance” enough times that our brain adapts to this new level of tension and informs our muscles that this new deeper range of motion is acceptable.

5 Yoga Stretches That Improve Your Mental And Physical Range Of Motion

The best way to get your muscles to relax and reap the full benefits of stretching is by learning not to send “tense” messages from your brain to your muscles, except when they are truly needed. Chronic tension sufferers will really struggle with this, especially in the beginning, as your brain has long forgotten how to turn off those chronically tense muscles.

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Practicing yoga not only produces temporary physical benefits,[4] such as increased flexibility and range of motion, muscle strength, and improved posture, it also improves sleep, lowers cortisol levels in the brain (which is produced by stress),and improves mood and mental focus.

1. Downward Facing Dog[5]

    via AllPosters

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    • Start on all fours with your hands directly under shoulders and knees under your hips.
    • Walk your hands a few inches forward and spread your fingers wide, pressing your palms into the mat.
    • Curl toes under and slowly press hips toward the ceiling, bringing your body into an inverted V, pressing shoulders away from your ears. Feet should be hip-width apart and your knees should be slightly bent.

    2. Happy Baby Pose[6]

      • Lie on your back. With an exhale, bend your knees into your belly.
      • Inhale, grip the outsides of your feet with your hands (if you have difficulty holding the feet directly with your hands, hold onto a belt looped over each sole). Open your knees slightly wider than your torso, then bring them up toward your armpits.
      • Position each ankle directly over the knee, so your shins are perpendicular to the floor. Flex through the heels.
      • Gently push your feet up into your hands (or the belts) as you pull your hands down to create a resistance.

      3. Warrior Pose[7]

        via Ekhart Yoga

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        • Stand with legs 3 to 4 feet apart, turning your right foot out 90 degrees and your left foot in slightly.
        • Bring your hands to your hips and relax your shoulders, then extend your arms out to the sides, palms down.
        • Bend your right knee by 90 degrees, keeping your knee over your ankle. Gaze out over your right hand. Hold this position for 1 minute.

        4. Mountain Pose[8]

          via Fitness Magazine

          • Stand tall with your feet together, shoulders relaxed, weight evenly distributed through your soles, and your arms at sides.
          • Take a deep breath and raise your hands overhead, palms facing each other with your arms straight.
          • Reach up toward the sky with your fingertips.

          5. Staff Pose[9]

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            via YogaBird

            • Sit on the floor with your legs together and extended in front of your torso.
            • Your sacrum and shoulder blades should touch the wall, but not your lower back or the back of your head.
            • Without hardening your belly, firm your thighs, and press them down against the floor.
            • Rotate your thighs slightly toward each other and draw your inner groins in toward the sacrum.
            • Flex your ankles, pressing out through your heels.
            • Take four deep breaths in and exhale

            According to yoga experts, the overall purpose of yoga is to create strength, awareness, and harmony in both the mind and body. When the brain and body connection is strong and in sync, chronic pain, muscle tension, and stiffness will vanish.

            Reference

            [1] Lifehack: 7 Practical Tips For Stretching
            [2] Anxiety Stress Centre: Do You Get Tensed Just Thinking about Relaxing
            [3] Yoga Dork: Stretching Is In Your Brain: A New Paradigm of Flexibility and Yoga (PART 1)
            [4] Yoga Journal: 38 Health Benefits of Yoga
            [5] Yoga Outlet: How to Do Downward-Facing Dog in Yoga
            [6] Yoga Journal: Happy Baby Pose
            [7] Fitness Magazine: Yoga Poses for Beginners
            [8] Fitness Magazine: Yoga Poses for Beginners
            [9] Yoga Journal: Staff Pose

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            Last Updated on September 8, 2021

            10 Fitness Excuses You Need to Stop Making Now

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            10 Fitness Excuses You Need to Stop Making Now

            “You can have results or excuses. Not both.” – Anonymous

            Human beings tend to only ever do as much as they absolutely need to.

            Motivational speakers call this innate trait laziness, biologists call it efficiency. Either way, the fact remains: we are evolutionary wired to minimize time and energy wherever possible.

            And this is not necessarily a bad thing. If we weren’t wired this way, we probably wouldn’t have survived this long as a species.

            Back in our caveman days, before supermarkets, calories were worth their weight in gold. For cavemen, trying to actively burn off calories would have spelled certain death.

            In this light, our fitness excuses make total sense. Our reptilian brain comes up with believable sounding rationalizations to stop us from burning off our precious calories; to minimize time and energy.

            Unfortunately, due to our present access to highly calorific foods, the fitness excuses that once ensured our survival, now send us to an early grave.

            Below I’ve provided the 10 most common fitness excuses our reptilian minds trick us into believing and why, ultimately, they’re all nonsense.

            1. I don’t have enough time.

            This is probably the most common fitness excuse of them all.

            First off, when you say you don’t have enough time, what you’re really saying is “I don’t have enough time for that”. 

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            Do you really think that if you were to add up all the time you spend watching TV and surfing the web throughout the average week you couldn’t replace any of it with a workout?

            A 30 minute workout takes up 2% of your day.

            Don’t ask yourself how much time you’re going to waste by working out a few times a week. Ask yourself how much of your life you’re going to waste being unfit and overweight.

            2. I’m way too tired to workout.

            Your mind, when it comes to exercising, is like a spoiled child. If you give in to its demands without a fight, it will see weakness and prey on it often.

            If you miss one planned session, you’re much more likely to miss the next. The biggest journey always starts with one step and the biggest failings always start with one step backwards.

            You need to show your mind who’s boss. You won’t always have lots of energy when you go to the gym but that doesn’t matter. The only thing that counts is showing up and giving it a shot.

            If you’re too tired to workout, change your sleeping habits, not your workout habits.

            3. But exercise is so boring!

            You don’t want to exercise because it’s boring?

            So you find brushing your teeth, taking showers, styling your hair and getting dressed highly entertaining? No. We do these things because we have to. We accept them as part of life.

            The people who never miss a workout are the ones who view it just like brushing their teeth. Complaining about it is just pointless. To be successful sometimes you’ve got to do things that aren’t as fun as watching your favorite TV show. That’s just life.

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            If don’t enjoy your workouts, you don’t stop working out, you just workout differently. Try crossfit, martial arts, hiking, body building, powerlifting, running, or swimming. Try music. Try anything, but keep showing up.

            4. I have no motivation to workout.

            If you think you need motivation to train you’re already half beat.

            What you really need is meta motivation: the motivation to train even when you’re not motivated. If you rely on your feelings to decide whether to workout or not, you never will. As you know, your feelings are designed to keep you caged up in your comfort pit.  Your feelings want you to be safe, not successful.

            That said, there is a trick you can use to get yourself motivated to workout, and it’s  backed up with research. It’s called ‘the few minutes’ principle.

            The basic idea is that procrastinators often put off doing certain things because the size of the task in front of them seems too overwhelming. By deciding to just go to the gym for a ‘few minutes’ you’ll often see the workout through to completion.

            Are you motivated enough to train for two minutes? That’s all you need.

            5. I have kids to look after.

            One day your kids might have someone to look after too: you.

            Don’t burden them with an ill parent when they have their own kids to look after. And don’t be the kind of parent who tells their kids exercise is good for them but doesn’t follow their own advice. Kids are smarter than that.

            If you’re really struggling with managing your fitness and your kids, combine the two. Find a field and play frisbee for a few hours, go swimming, take a walk around the lake and feed some ducks. There are so many fun and cheap ways to exercise with your kids, the only limits are your imagination.

            You kids should be your biggest reason to exercise, not your biggest excuse.

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            6. I don’t have anyone to train with.

            What you’re really saying with this fitness excuse is that you don’t have anyone to talk with while you train. If you’re training properly, you won’t need to talk.

            Don’t get me wrong, having a training partner is great but here’s what you’ve got to understand: most people first meet their training partners at the gym. The reason you probably don’t have anyone to train with is because you don’t have many friends who train. Like attracts like.

            By becoming someone who regularly trains, you’ll start attracting people into your life who also value health and fitness. You have to earn your training partners, they don’t come free.

            7. I don’t feel very well.

            After you get into the habit of overriding your fitness excuses and working out regularly, the thought of missing a workout starts to drive you insane. When I broke my jaw in two places the doctors told me I couldn’t lift heavy weights for three months. What did I do? I lifted light weights instead. Train smart, not hard.

            At some point in our lives we’ve all pretended to be ill so we could skip a day of school. Some of the better actors among us probably blurred the lines in their mind between real symptoms and those imagined. It’s easy to exaggerate things when it fits our agenda.

            If you’re really sick, I don’t recommend you train. But feeling a bit tired or achy – that’s no reason to skip a workout.

            8. The gym is too expensive or far.

            If you think you need a gym to achieve your fitness goals, you’ve been seriously misled.

            The world is your fitness playground. Ever watched a training scene from a Rocky movie? He chases chickens, runs up steps, punches meat, and chops wood. Many people cite these scenes as their favorite.  Something about training dirty and raw resonates deep within us.

            There are whole fitness subcultures dedicated to working out outdoors, and without formal equipment. Ever heard of Calisthenics, Tai Chi, Yoga or Parkour? Look them up.

            If you want to put on muscle, try some typical strongman training like chopping wood, flipping tires, lifting barrels. Remember, if it’s important enough to you, you’ll find a way. Arnold Schwarzenegger made his own gym equipment out of chairs and sticks for the first year he trained. He claims he gained 25 pounds of muscle from doing this.

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            9. I don’t know how to train properly.

            If you’re reading this article, you’re obviously more than capable of figuring this out. The internet is brimming with routines and training tips. This site alone will give you more than you need. Read these 10 tips for better workouts, perfect for beginners.

            However, it’s important that you don’t get too engulfed in the theory of ‘training properly’. Like most things in life, you learn best on the job. Ask people in the gym to show you how to use proper technique, then practice through action.

            People love giving out tips. You might even get a training partner out of it.

            10. I feel intimidated by the fit people there.

            This is normal and everyone has this when they first start out. The environment is new, everyone there looks like they know what they’re doing. You feel like you’re in someone else’s home.

            The number one reason you feel intimidated when you go to the gym is because you don’t go enough! If you started going regularly you’d get used to the place, the people and your fitness would improve. Everyone knows training improves your confidence. Just stick with it. It’s something you’ll laugh at a few months down the line.

            Anyone can get in great shape. Anyone can become fit. But very few people ever do because they give in to their natural inclination to minimize time and effort.

            Stop making excuses and just stick with it for two months. After that you’ll be finding excuses to workout even when you do have important stuff to get on with.

            Featured photo credit: United Artists, Chartoff-Winkler Productions via Rocky (1976)

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