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Your Body, and Mind,
BASICS OF ACCUMULATING TIGHTNESS
Everybody knows that tightness limits us. A hot shower, a massage or a guided relaxation tape can release the tightness we created today, because this was caused by our nerve signals still being turned on and by our muscle fibers still being contracted from our activities. But the long-term experience of getting tighter and tighter, and eventually feeling chronic pain, is due to something else.
Our muscles actually contain two kinds of tissues that can change shape. The muscle fibers, which are the active muscle “cells,” are hundreds of long thin rods whose length is determined by what our nerve signals tell them to do. That’s what we think of when we talk about muscle movement. These fibers change length all over the body, moment by moment, while we do different things throughout the day. The nerve signals have them contract to move a joint a particular way, and when the nerve signals are turned off, they re-lengthen again, and the joint goes back to where it was before.
Interspersed with the muscle fibers, inside the muscle, is a soft “connective tissue,” called fascia (fah sha). Fascia is just a gelatinous “putty” that’s filling in the spaces between the muscle fibers. It’s mainly made up of many tiny collagen protein fibers suspended in a fluid. They form a web that gives us our shape. In the fluid are also the blood and lymph capillaries that feed the cells and remove their waste products. (So we want to keep cleaning these areas with bodywork.) Then, fascia of a slightly tougher consistency forms sacks, or wrappings, around all the muscle fibers, to hold them together, so it looks like, and works like, a whole muscle.
We all create muscular forces of contraction and tension, from exercise, from emotional stress and from postural habits. Working out with weights, and running or bike riding are perhaps the strongest contractors. Heavy physical work is another. We also experience bumps, blows and falls. All these forces “push” those tiny collagen fibers closer and closer together so they get “bunched up” in the fluid. That makes the overall lengths of the web and the wrappings shorter, like moving all the furniture in a room into a much smaller space. The negative side effect of successful physical activity is a bunching-up of the fascia.
When the web and wrappings are shorter, the muscle fiber rods that are inside them can’t return to their full lengths after their own action is done. The whole muscle they’re in isn’t as long as it used to be. They’re forced to stop, part way to their full relaxed length. This is true even though the nerve signals are turned off, even when “we” try to relax. There’s always a tension, even after a massage, because “putty” is short, not because “you” are tense.
It’s a fascial shortness we’re talking about. The actual muscle fiber and nerve action is still working properly, but it has less length to work in. The muscle fibers are no longer operating with their full lengths, so they can’t create the full muscular power we’re supposed to have. The putty surrounding them is holding them in too short of a “corn husk” to do the job they’re designed to do. (And the putty is also compressed, so there’s less circulation.)
Since we all tighten up regularly, these kinds of fascial shortnesses accumulate, starting as early as childhood. So our physical and emotional expressions get more and more limited, because they are dependent on how well we can move our muscles. This is why people get tighter and more rigid as time goes on. Even when a person wants to be more relaxed, or wants to be more expressive and lively, he or she can’t; the shortened fascia won’t allow it.
Remember that there is no way to mentally or nutritionally relax out fascial putty. Fascia is not controlled by nerve signals. And it does not re-lengthen just by rest. The putty was pushed into a shorter shape by muscular forces. So to correct the problem, we simply need to apply another, spreading or pulling force to re-lengthen it, to bring those collagen fibers back to where they’re supposed to be and create a bigger fluid channel as well. We need to mechanically “un-bunch” the fascia.
But short putty also gets physically hard. So it’s very difficult to loosen and re-lengthen it with stretching (although eating raw and living food and doing periodic detoxifications make it easier, simply because that keeps the tissue cleaner and healthier, and then it does spread and release much better). Further, the body’s muscle and bone system is interconnected in a specific way, and each area of hard shortness actually keeps the rest of the whole body from letting go. Tight legs for instance, make lower backs tight, and tight arms make necks and shoulders tight.
Many types of sports injuries, especially where tissues are pulled or torn, are caused by a lot of bunch-up in whole areas of the body, and it’s been getting tighter and tighter for a long time. Finally, the shortness and hardness are so bad that the whole network won’t stretch or move around during the course of even the regular activity. So something pulls or tears. And then it has a hard time healing because the same overall shortness keeps that excessive tension on the damaged tissues.
Therefore, to reverse chronic, and worsening tightness, we need to apply a special “hands-on” spreading technique that can soften the fascia and then re-lengthen it, but do it in accord with the body’s interlocking construction, one step after another.
Often, we need to lengthen all, or most of the body, to correct many kinds of physical problems, such as chronic back pains. This is because we each accumulate many “bunch-ups” or knots, in muscles all over the body. And each knot’s tightness pulls through the fascia and the bone and muscle interconnections. So this affects a number of muscles in many other areas, too. The tightness in one part of the body actually holds many other muscles tight, even if those muscles have already been loosened. So no amount of localized massage or chiropractic, or even local connective tissue manipulation, can correct the “overall interlocking tightness” problem that everybody seems to accumulate.
Structural Integration’s “full” name is The “Structural Integration” Method of Connective Tissue Manipulation. And it was specifically designed to correct this kind of “whole body” condition, whether a person is having significant pain because of it, or has just become increasingly stiff and tight over the years. It spreads the fascia and releases the interlocking knots. Practitioners are trained in the special manipulation technique and they are also taught sequences of strokes and sequences of areas to work on. So they can correct both regional problems and problems in a head-to-toe overall condition.
But there’s another problem we have to solve, too. At the same time that we’re bunching up, the collagen fibers of the fascia, and other parts of the muscles and organs, actually absorb the energies of our stress while they’re being pushed closer together. And they act like little organic crystals or magnetic tapes. They record and store the emotional charge that we, ourselves, and everyone around us, were emitting from our cells during the time the fibers were being pushed closer together.
This is especially true in times of great emotional stress, or physical injury, even when we are mentally “handling” the situation. Many times, people “automatically record” the strong emotional feelings they’re having during an auto accident, a fall, or when they get hit by somebody. Thus, the tension and tightness we accumulate also accumulates the information and actions about the event as well. It all gets physically locked-in.
This means that an elderly person’s emotional fear of falling gets stored in the same area of tissue surrounding her broken hip. And the sorrow that a child feels in its chest, when a parent suddenly dies, gets recorded on the same internal “tape” as the other family members’ thoughts, feelings and shock. This kind of thing happens with trauma and fear in auto accidents, too.
I even notice that when people have athletic injuries that they haven’t been able to get fixed for a long time, they accumulate frustration and hopelessness. These are quite understandable feelings and they, too, get stored in the person’s body, often right around the injured area.
Recording also happens, “big time,” during abuse. The physical blows of the abuser record his, or her, angry energy into the victim while the blows themselves are pushing the fascia into a more contracted shape. And simultaneously, the victim’s own tensing up is locking in his or her emotional fears and upset, along with the chaos and disorientation that’s also happening. And it’s making the whole body more contracted and compressed, too.
This tenser body form, and these recordings, stay that way, for years, just like the recordings on your favorite CD stay for years. These are “bodily recordings;” made by the energies that happened in the past events. They’re actual feelings of sadness, hurt, anger or terror. Even the overwhelm and helplessness are there. But as recordings, rather than memories, they can’t be mentally released, even when people come to resolution in their psychotherapy. They aren’t in the brain; they aren’t in the conscious mind. But because they are indeed “physically” there, the brain, and the body’s emotional centers do pick them up. And that is what causes the person to still “feel” the trauma emotionally, and even physically. It’s just as it happened when the recordings were made in the actual event.
The event is long gone, the person has “mentally” or spiritually worked on the issue, but the body recordings still keep coming up and interfering with the person’s life. Even flashbacks have been found to be mental activity coming out of the embedded traumatic recordings.
In a well worked out series of sessions, Structural Integration actually removes many of these physical, and emotional, residues from our past. Instead of being a massage-like technique, which is designed to move the fluids through the muscles, we actually “push” the bunched-up muscle tissue back into its “ideal” form, into the longer and less compressed shape it’s supposed to be in. It’s like spreading window putty or bread dough.
Our muscle system is now freer and is better interconnected from one part of the body to another. So the body actually starts functioning in better ways. People of all ages and abilities, including seniors, notice an increase in their physical abilities. Flexibility and deep relaxation are greatly increased, very quickly. And without the restriction of the bunched-up fascia, the muscles’ power and range of motion also get bigger. We stand straighter with less effort, we move around with more agility and we can do more without getting as tired. Pain due to tightness usually gets a lot less and much of it often goes away, for good.
In fact, chronic pain, in the back or other areas, is very often caused by a severe “bunch-up,” that’s been getting worse for a long time. Bent over torsos are caused by that, too, as are misaligned joints, a weakened grip and back and neck problems. The deep muscles that control the position of the bones have gotten shorter. When we finally re-lengthen this deep bunch-up and the problem is corrected, it’s because the cause has been corrected.
Let me point out that this unique kind of treatment improves the way the person’s whole body is put together. It improves the way the whole thing moves and works.
We use our fingers,
hands and arms to soften, spread and re-lengthen the fascia in a way that
makes the different bones and muscle groups more “organized,” and better
aligned with one another. And in the process of making this overall
improvement, we just have
to make the body less tight.
At the same time that the hands-on pressure spreads the collagen fibers back to their proper positions in the fluid, it also squeezes the stored energy out of their recordings, thereby actually removing it from the body. It’s like squeezing the old stuff out of a tube of toothpaste. So a lot of the negative emotional feelings we’ve been carrying around for a long time also get cleared up.
The combination of
removing both the physical tightness and the negative charge enables
people to feel less stressed. And even the negative energies from people
or events that are currently in their lives, usually bother them less.