Everyone does a stretch now and then. Sometimes just to relieve a kink and other times a mindful stretch to release tension. Part of the practice of Yoga is to attain a new position a little further than the last attempt. It can be good to stretch muscles out after a workout.
These attempts at lengthening muscle fibers are not successful on the first attempt. The fibers often fight back. If you breathe with the stretch, you can feel a release of tension and the muscle lengthening. That is because oxygen is being delivered to the tissue and the parasympathetic nervous system is starting to play a role in relaxation, and the sympathetic nervous stimulus to contract is decreasing. It takes patience and mindfulness to get the maximum stretch and relaxation.
I love mangos and they grow great here in Florida. There are many varieties and it is great to see the heavy fruit hanging off the little branches. But the small saplings that we plant have to take root. They grow better if they are stressed. Watering the perimeter of the tree makes the roots stretch out and grow towards the water and nutrients thereby forming a better foundation and root system for the tree. I like to look at the mangos, but it is actually the roots that are doing all of the work getting the nutrients to the tree.
Roots and muscles have a lot in common. They provide nourishment and support to the tree and the body. They work best when stressed resulting in growth. As humans we prefer things close and easy. Avoid the stretch or the reach. If it doesn’t work quickly, we get frustrated. We want guarantees that our efforts are going to pay off positively and quickly. How many minutes longer will I live if I do not eat olive oil or fish? How long do I have to exercise to get the maximum benefit? Does the root know how long it needs to grow, or does it just keep reaching day in and day out to achieve the best that it can? If the root is not growing, the tree is dying. It is the process that is more important than the finish line. We often ignore the process and are then surprised when our bodies fail because we have not stretched our comfort zone enough to promote healing and growth. The stresses we do give our bodies in the form of emotional stress, poor nutrition and lack of movement negatively affect our recovery and growth.
We feed our bodies nutrients to help us recover and regenerate. We need to physically stress our bodies to promote growth and regeneration as well. Without either of these, our bodies deteriorate. We also need to be mindful of our breath and the role it plays in movement and in nutrient extraction. Breathing shallow and frequent decreases oxygen delivery and leads to muscle deterioration. The day to day journey is much more important than focusing on end results. In order to sustain good nutrition and movement, it needs to be part your mindful day and not an afterthought. What form of exercise or movement do you enjoy? What counts? Did you change gears today? The more your heart rate varies the better. Did you challenge yourself? Did you eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables? Did you breath effectively using your diaphragm thereby strengthening your breathing muscles? Did you use your breathing to stretch and relax and implement a healing phase. We cannot put our bodies on a shelf to make them last longer. It is only with taking in proper nutrition and moving with intension that we can keep our bodies and mind functioning optimally.