Tight and tense muscles can become contracted even when they aren't being utilized, and sometimes we don't even know it! Sometimes we feel it as soreness, discomfort, or lack of mobility.
These patterns of tension and muscular contraction = accumulate as a result of stress, unhealthy habits, the residue of injuries, or a lack of proper exercise and stretching. Contracted muscles can "tug" on bones, creating misalignment and subsequent compensation patterns. When parts of the body are not in relative alignment, muscles don't function as they are meant to, often becoming either over-active or under-active.
Ideally, muscles rest in a fully relaxed state that supports oxygenation, allowing them to exist in their full potential for strength, resilience and comfort. And our muscles aren't a discrete unit: the state of our muscles can become imprinted in fascia (the ubiquitous connective tissue in the body), and, in a sense, embedded in the many layers of our beings.
That's why it's great to give yourself a structural reset to experience freedom from old physical habits and patterns that might not be serving you.
Here are some steps to help you unwind, neutralize, and find your natural length and ideal functionality again.
1. Observe what's happening.
Notice what you feel in your body. Check in without judgement.
2. Relax your holding patterns.
Unconscious contraction is common and often goes unnoticed. Once you sense it, play with relaxing the areas that are on constant alert. This can also be practiced in a more formal "constructive relaxation" session, like yoga nidra, savasana or seated meditation.
3. Exercise for Balance.
Engage in an asana practice that offers “cross-training” for your life to help you move towards balance and functional harmony. Remember: life isn’t one-size-fits-all, neither is the movement your body needs.
Gain the skills to practice yoga, exercise and stretch in a way that will target the most restricted fascia and muscles in your body. For guidance, check out this library of structural yoga sequences.
4. Organize body segments onto their foundation.
Let your shoulders rest on your ribcage, let your pelvis rest on your legs. Sometimes just "letting body segments rest" is not easy-- this is one way to become more in touch with tension that needs long-term attention!
Get grounded in your feet and legs and feel how your legs support you. Check in with how getting grounded, organized and relaxed creates a natural, uncontrived, and wonderful lift deep inside the body.
5. Be gentle.
Create a little more length and space in your trunk. See if you can visualize and introduce a long spine and a relaxed body without aggressive muscular effort. Work with the energetic body and your breath to create length, order, and new patterns.
Imprint better ways of standing and walking by mindfully adjusting with an exploratory playfulness. Don't over-do it! Sometimes people create more problems by over-correcting. Be gentle and patient with yourself. Change doesn't come from forcing things.