By Essentrics Master Trainer, Amanda Cyr
Stress is not just carried in our minds but also in our bodies. Currently, many of us are living our lives in a constant state of worry, fear, anger, and anxiety. This stress can have many repercussions that affect our entire body. It’s important to understand where we hold stress and tension within our bodies and more importantly, how we release it through gentle full-body Essentrics workouts.
The same way our brain produces chemicals as a response to our emotions, our muscles also respond to the emotions we express. When we are stressed, we unconsciously bring tension into certain key areas of our body. Stress has been recognized as a ‘silent killer’ leading to a wide array of chronic diseases. Tension causes the muscles to shorten leading to spasms and a feeling of constant tightness and pain. It’s important to learn how you respond to stress and where it migrates into your body.
Some of the key areas we hold stress include:
- Neck and Jaw: Subconsciously, many people tend to clench their jaws when they are feeling stressed or anxious. This action puts more pressure on the joints of the face and neck creating a chain reaction that can even affect our posture.
- Shoulders and upper back: Sometimes, it feels like we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders (literally). Shoulder and upper back pain are the most common complaint I receive from my clients. Tension in this area can stem from lifestyle choices such as scrolling through smartphones, driving or sitting all day or even from an increase in the number of responsibilities and stresses that we have in our daily lives.
- Hips and pelvis: Our hips are where we tend to store a lot of our emotional stresses. When we are in a state of stress our body feels threatened and this can trap muscular tension. Subconsciously, this state of stress can make the body want to bend the knees into a fetal like position of protection. This natural response traps muscular tension especially in the hip flexors. The hip flexors are a large group of muscles that connect the upper leg to the hip, and they allow you to bring your legs up towards your chest.
3 Simple tips on how to release muscle tension with Essentrics
- Deep breathing: Breathing deeply calms both your muscles and your mind. Remember to breathe during the Essentrics workout, this has a direct impact on the parasympathetic nervous system. As opposed to fight or flight reactions, this neurological pathway helps send oxygen to the brain easing our minds and relaxing our muscles.
- Imagery: Each Essentrics workout gives a lot of descriptive cues to help you understand the degree of tension that should be applied to each movement. During your exercise, it is helpful to imagine things that allow the muscles to relax and enable you to move with a sense of ease and control. For example, thinking of moving through warm water, or feeling the breeze of a hot summer day all around you. Workouts that focus on moving slower with more attention on remaining relaxed, such as gentle Essentrics workouts, have been shown to decrease the stress response in your body.
- Perform a full-body scan: During or after your workout, take some time to close your eyes and become aware of your body. Body awareness if one of the most exciting benefits to full-body Essentrics workouts. What does body awareness mean? It means being more in tune with where your body is in space, and the ability to feel and notice each part. Body awareness can help you recognize the physical feelings of stress and allow you to focus on relaxing these areas with more attention.
Our body and mind are undeniably connected and recognizing how daily movement can be of benefit to our mental health is a very empowering feeling. Planning to do a workout with this in mind can be extremely beneficial towards training our muscles to work with in a state of ease (as opposed to “dis” ease). This is an exciting way to work towards feeling lighter, freer, more alive and centered after each workout!
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