One of the questions I'm asked THE most by new clients is How does my body get like this? Human beings are curious, and we've grown up in a schooling system that teaches us to be inquisitive (good!) but that most inquisitiveness wants a solid, scientific outcome, result or explanation (not so good!). When I give my answer: Life! I'm met with 'Oh'. But why is this? To me it makes sense that the reason your body gets in an achy pickle and symptoms manifest out of nowhere because you carry around unresolved emotion, tension, anxiety and dis-ease. So this month I'm going to investigate in my shiatsu blog: How does my body get like this? (The twists and torsions of life!).
Where do you recognise tension?
Most of you do say: I hold my tension in my shoulders!
What a lot of you don't realise is; you can hold a lot of tension in your glutteal muscles (bum!) too.
In fact if you don't knowingly hold tension in your shoulders, then it most likely held lower down, and it can sink in even further and get held in your organs; and another place, your diaphragm.
Very few creaks (generic term for aches and pains acquired in daily life!) come from an external source. It maybe that you sit awkwardly on your work chair regularly, slump on the sofa in the evenings, over do it in the garden, don't stretch and keep warm as you cool down from sport, don't stretch to warm up for sport even! Then there are those people that have to get into awkward positions for work whether sitting on a nursery floor or contorting to reach pipes under a sink. All of these are valid reasons why your muscles get cricks in them. Sometimes you wake up and you've slept badly resulting in a neck /shoulder crick that takes days to go.
Then there are falls, did you fall on the ice? I did... well I blame the dog, but boy did I go down and bash my sitting bone. I got over that in 2 days however the shock wave up my spine got caught at the junction of my neck and shoulder and though mainly resolved I'll need another shiatsu to sort it out completely.
The twists and torsions of life
You can see how twists and torsions, falls, bashes and more can start creating aches and pains throughout your body. But there is loads more to it though.
A lot of repetitive motions in one direction can cause issues, a regular one is speed walking/ marching. A lot of what people do for fitness isn't necessarily healthy. One good test for those of you who like walking/jogging/cycling, as you only use your muscles in one direction (back and forth) is to check how bendy and how easily you can twist. It's important for your body to move in every direction, and if you think you're fit but you can't twist (check out Qi Gong for twisting exercises - the main one is called Opening the Gate of Life) then you're not healthy. Being able totwist your body is imperative as it means you're more agile with balance, it massages your organs and you're also probably way more emotionally flexible too!
Muscles are incredibly hard working and we just expect them to bounce back as they did whilst we were younger, but that isn't the case when you get into midlife.
A muscles is made up of a bundle of hundreds of muscles fibres, they contract when they are working, and they should release when we relax them; but they don't entirely. This when I'm talking about healthy muscles, we'll come to the unhealthy stuff later :)
How your muscles work
Back to your bundle of fibres, contraction is easy, its an action to do something, they flex or brace to move or pick up something. But do you extend them properly to relax them? (this would be the stretching on cool down), Do you warm them up before you using them (stretching to warm up)? The answer to both questions is most likely no unless you're a professional athlete! I'm the same, I don't think to warm up my back muscles before tackling large bushes/trees in the garden but I feel the ache afterwards!
Bundles of muscle fibres are good at doing their job, however they are also like human beings, they don't know how to relax properly, and we're not helping them. So what happens is maybe a couple in a hundred of the fibres doesn't relax this time, then a couple more next time , and over time this builds up and then you're feeling it as tight muscles and knots.
You really feel it if you've pulled a muscle, because you've overdone it (and it was feeling weak beforehand but you didn't register that) or something has got caught and gone into spasm. What really has affected people in the recent weeks is walking around on ice for a week, that holding that you do as you gingerly walk? That has really done a number on a lot of hips, but luckliy a shiatsu can resolve this :)
A shiatsu helps because it encourages the muscles to release, and return to relaxation. That's why you feel taller and chilled out at the end of a session. One of the main issues from tight muscles is that it blocks the energetic meridians, which is what shiatsu is based on. These meridians are the life lines throughout your body, carrying lifeforce, blood, fluids and nerve messages to your limbs, connecting your organs to your brain, and keeping your spine flexible in all directions. Block these sensitive message pathways and things stop working properly. Quite visibly with arms/hands and legs/feet, grumbling as lower back ache or shoulder tension, but invisibly with your organs. What if your tension is affecting your liver, gallbladder or small intestine
Your muscles protect the rest of you!
Your musculature covers the surface of your body, protecting your delicate organs and bones within, so your muscles take a good bashing as well as being susceptible to cold, muscles DO NOT like cold. When you hear about athletes jumping in ice baths, that's because they've pushed themselves so far they have a lot of inflammation (Andy Murray, and he's also had hip replacement before 40, so not a great example to follow!). Normal people, with normal working muscles like to be kept warm, this keeps them supple and the blood flowing, this keeps your muscles happy and working well and most of the muscle fibres will then relax when released. Cold muscles contract they don't want to work because a muscle becomes more susceptible to cold as it stretches, hence you should always be in warm clothes or environment as you do warm up stretches.
What else is going on?
Underneath your muscles are your organs, so what can happen with the physical organ, it's associated energetics and emotions; this is where life can really set in!
A lot of the time I'm talking about Gallbladder, Liver, Kidney and Small Intestine energy with clients, how issues and emotions (that are undealt with) can sit within these energetics and then manifest as issues in your health.
Looking at a couple of examples starting with Kidney energy, this can be anything from bad back to anxiety to fatigue, with the common emotional link being any type of fear. If you're fearful you'll most likely have some lower back ache. If you kidneys are cold (physically) you can have back ache, anxiety, cold flushes, and fatigue. So the physical can manifest as issues, but the emotions linked can also manifest as physical ailments.
I was chatting with a client the other about the word Psychosomatic and whether it's become misunderstood? It's not about your ailments being in your head, it's about your mindset and undealt with emotions rooting themselves physically in your body. A lot of the time this is all done subconsciously, so you may not even know they are linked, and this can be the case with your Gallbladder, specifically gallstones, this is linked a lot to being repressed as a child and not being able to express anger. By the time you're in your midlife, you may not even recognise anger, or how to be, your body is just storing it.
That's quite an extreme one but it does happen, hopefully most of your unresolved emotional issues are captured and dealt with effectively. For example a lot of women in menopause, find themselves easily angered and exploding. This is a liver energetic issue and if I help them to cleanse and support it the volatile mood swings and irrational irritability calm down. Shiatsu does this as it releases the the tension that was mounting in the body, waiting to explode. If the liver energetics are running more smoothly, you're less likely to be easily rattled and when you are genuinely angry you can resolve it more affectively. Liver support supplements will also help cleanse the liver so that it processes your blood physically to remove toxins and so again the tension isn't mounting, and blockages are forming.
Coming back to your muscle system and the ability to twist, it can massage your liver and gallbladder physically thus aiding the energetics and releasing and allowing your emotionals to run more smoothly. Literally twisting your body can relieve irritability!
This position is called Twisted roots (don't try if you have prolapse or lower disc issues without guidance). Lying on a comfortable mat/rug, as you breath in take both legs over to one side, fling your arms out and turn your head to the opposite side. Relax into this position. If it's too tight with both legs, try with one. If you're struggling, you need a shiatsu :)
Ways to help your body twist more
Being able to twist at the waist and hips will make you feel way more flexible and help you balance better and your organs to have a good massage when you do this. So to get your muscles ready, try:
Keep muscles warm - especially around the back and middle - try a Haramaki
Regularly try twisting exercises - it maybe difficult at first but persevere and you'll feel the difference
Keeploose with therapeutic shaking - this will help relax your muscle fibres and muscles over all and blood flow will be better
Ankle rotations before you get out of bed - not only will this help your ankles and your lower back it will also aid liver blood flow around the body, you'll be bouncing out of bed in a week or so!
Detox your liver - help the liver cleanse better and this will keep irritability down, and can help with a myriad of health issues, from thryroid, to high blood pressure and blood health
Strengthening sideways exercises ( we're not all quite a stretchy as this but you get the idea!):
Are you twisting enough to be healthy?
You can see from today's blog that life can cause blockages, muscle pains, ailments and issues, as they get stuck in your body but that being supple, flexible and able to twist effectively can actually help you deal with and alleviate some of lifes issues that are thrown at you.
If your body is inflexible, is your thinking also?
Or, is it the way that you think that is making your inflexible?
That's your thought for the day!
From the view point of how your meridians and energetics work they want to be able to flow freely around your body to keep you healthy but a combination of life issues, whether physical or emotional can clamp down on them or even block them. When this happens you start feeling issues in your body, and emotionally you may also get caught, and this is the catch 22 of health it's quick chicken and egg at times.
When answering the question: How does my body get like this?
Answering with the one word answer Life, isn't me fobbing someone off, it's actually a one word answer for the complexity that life brings. I've realised this long ago as I've had regular cranial osteopathy for 10 plus years before learning about shiatsu. In that time I knew that this therapy was helping me emotionally as much as physically (you just can't separate them out), but I also knew it wasn't the complete picture and I was searching for more).
Shiatsu answered a lot of my questions about me and my mind and body, and helped my phsyical health when my emotional health was made sense of . Hey, I've barely had a sore throat since I learnt about repression of communication; when they were a weekly occurance when I was younger.
Be curious about why you keep getting the same issues; is it time to go under the covers and resolve them? Once we get into midlife our bodies become set in patterns, so an issue may keep returning. Also weaknesses in your musculature may have set in, if you're regularly getting knots the likelihood there is now an underlying weakness that isn't going away with other therapy. Once I started receiving shiatsu the knots in my right shoulder went, never to return.
Help your body to learn to go with the flow a lot more, to let go of tensions as they arrive, to have a better sleep and not wake up with a crick in the neck, to not put your back out regularly and to avoid tension headaches weekly. These issues are being caused by life but that doesn't mean you have to put up with them.
Become bendy again with Shiatsu
You can turn up stiff, with a lot of tension or in a lot of pain but shiatsu is the first step on the path back to freeing your body and feeling the lightness and energy that comes with it. Leave the room feeling a foot taller, feeling relaxed, feeling calmer, feeling grounded, feeling in control, feeling more robust about what life is throwing at you.
You came in for a physical therapy, but you'll leave with great feelings!
If you're ready to try a treatment the options are here, and if you're not local to Cheltenham I offer free Health and Vitality phone calls (it's amazing how many issues get resolved!) and I also do an online session where I talk you through exercises, stretches and points to help you relieve symptoms.