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3 Stretches for Loosening Your Glutes

Y'all a bunch of tight asses! Literally...

And I don't mean this in a way that you've got great butts. I mean you have so much tension in your glutes from sitting and stressing that you may have forgotten what a soft, supple butt feels like. This is a tricky post. How your butt feels is what I'm talking about, not feeling other peoples butts. Trust me, as a massage therapist I feel other peoples butts all the time, and I know this is an issue. 

You have no idea just how much tension you're carrying in your tushie cause you've been penny pinching with your butt cheeks for so long that your body has simply accepted this current state of hyperbuttnicity as normal.  Okay, I made that word up. but hypertonicity refers to a muscle that is too tight for its' own good. Its' actually restricting the blood supply to the tissue, and if this persists, muscles can become as hard as bones. Which is not a good thing. Sciatica, lower back pain, knee pain, IT band syndrome, bursitis, are some of the possible symtoms of hypertonic glutes. 

I've talked before about our bodies amazing ability to adapt, unfortunately this process becomes problematic when the demand is sitting or standing for hours, and hours, over months and years. Eventually the blood flow to your tush gets restricted by this behavior and end result, tightness so ingrained deep into your glutes that the bones of the pelvis begin to get pulled by your glute muscles so much so that your sacrum and ilium or SI joint can become inflamed. I won't bore you with the anatomical details and possible conditions that become affected by the relationship of the bones of your pelvis, suffice it to say, the lumbar spine and the femur are directly impacted. Hence, low back pain, knee pain, and various hip conditions can be directly traced to stress and tension in your butts.

3 easy ways to loosen up your glutes

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  1. Spend more time stretching deeply your hip socket, challenging your range of motion in pigeon pose.
  2. Don't ever stand still. Gently sway, challenge your hip mobility, forward, backwards, side to side, rock those hips around. 
  3. Deep tissue massage, or any soft tissue stimulus that can precisely target the small muscles around your femur head, along your ilium, and along your sacral ridge.

I recently a client relay the following sentiment on this exact point. I'm paraphrasing my client on the affect of hip related to lower back pain. 'It was amazing how before the visit, bending down caused such pain and now, the pain is gone. I never would have imagined my hips causing my back pain. But as soon as we finished our last session, and using the STARwrap on the areas  you told me to focus, I was able to break up the tension using it everyday. I just want to get better. Using it (STARwrap) on the bed while I was laying down, it resolved my back pain. This client is a nurse on her feet all day long working 14 hour shifts. 

And just a friendly reminder, muscles that are soft and supple have more shape and contour than those that are tight. Just sayin...

How intense are the STAR Activators?

STAR Activators are an extremely precise stimulus that may appear rather intimidating. It's in part, the very reason for their effectiveness. But how to handle the intensity? Slowly, gently, while breathing, patiently waiting for the tissue to open. Not forcing or rushing your body to relax, it will tighten up if you move too fast.  Penetrating with precise depth into muscle tissue is important. Just as a massage therapist applies precise force using knuckles, fingers, and elbows, the activators also provide the shape required for penetration into the 3 dimensions of a muscle fiber.  The body will adapt to whatever you place on it, and in it. Use this truth for you own benefit.

But just how precise and effective are these 'activators?' And should you be concerned that they may cause damage to your muscle tissue? I've written in previous blogs about the body's natural ability to adapt to most things that challenge it. Take Laird Hamilton, Professional Big Wave surfer (www.lairdhamilton.com).  Each year Laird has increased the size of the waves he rides. He has capped the wave heigth at 100', but until now, he's gone from 30' to 40' up to 80' waves. His body's ability to handle the stress and speed and aggressiveness of riding an 80' wave has adapted. And if he falls, he has learned how to do so to stay alive. 

This is a 'lifestyle adaptation' that creates 'superhuman' qualities and abilities. I use Laird as an example of how the body can learn to do just about anything if given the right 'stimulus' experience.  If this is true, my claim is that spending time with intense, therapeutic pain is the most unbelievably healing and nurturing experience we can offer our bodies. 

Yes, the activators are precise and intense and will challenge your body's dense, bundled, tight muscle tissue. But it won't always be the case. As you transform your tissue, it will require less and less effort to keep the tissue at an optimal state of health. These ideas can't be understood until you experience the cascade of healing that occurs when muscles release and soften.  Our experience of our body's current states of health can always be challenged. The way we move is our reality, but we can constantly change it and create new ways of moving and feeling. 

5 key ways to create a cascade of healing experience with your recovery effort.

  1. Find one area to target and allow the tissue to respond to your stimulus.
  2. Give your body adequate time to respond. This can vary for each individual.
  3. Consciously continuously be letting go of the tension.
  4. Be consistent with your recovery effort in the beginning, as tissue improves, maintain as needed.
  5. This is your therapy, be committed to the outcome of optimal tissue health.


Soft Tissue Active Release class starts at Rydeshack

Join me for our new class, Soft Tissue Active Release Recovery Class. Starts this Wednesday at 6:00 pm and Friday 6:00 am ongoing.

Class Description:

Come experience therapeutic pain. This class will explore muscular restrictions and individual patterns of mobility. We will target and work to relieve joint stiffness, and areas of tightness related to sport and lifestyle. You will be guided through specific, precise, muscle activation exercises to release deep-seated tension and unwind bound muscles. You will learn how to resource the most precise, wearable, muscle recovery tool, the STARWRAP, with Tait Yoder, LMT, IMAP II, Sports Massage Therapist.

Ryde Shack

Fitness Center

 

UNC and Duke Athletics inspired the development of STARwrap

UNC Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Team

UNC Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Team

Duke Track and Field

Duke Track and Field

I’m a sports massage therapist and back in 2007 I was working with college D-1 athletes at UNC and Duke, yes, I had to switch shirts going from one team to another. Normally I would have ½ hour of bodywork with each athlete to undue tension and muscle tightness. Understand these athletes were training between 10-15 hours per week and had extremely busy schedules as NCAA student athletes. This was a challenge to make a difference in the state of these athletes muscle tissue. I’d perform my work on the tissue, and give them some corrective exercises, stretches, and different recovery strategies to help continue restoring muscle tissue health on their own. However, the next week the tissue was often the same due to all the tension and training. I would recommend tennis balls, lacrosse balls, foam rollers, sticks, anything I could find that would help support my athletes. What I found was that most of these products lacked specificity. Additionally, they required use of both hands to apply the necessary force. This required time, a commodity these athletes didn't have.

I wanted to recommend a tool that would get the result of restoring muscle tissue and that a busy, physically active athlete could integrate into their lifestyle. I wanted to create a tool that could be worn and be specific enough to challenge tissue at the depth it needs without adding much time to their schedule.

The problem I found is two-fold. One, not enough time is put into active recovery.  By active recovery I refer to ways to help your muscles recover from stress. This can be rest, proper nutrition, stretching, light exercise, hydration. What I have found is that athletes, most people for that matter, don't spend enough time in this endeavor. Many times the muscles related to your mobility and sport have over time become bundled and have lost a great deal of blood flow to the tissue. What we want to do is provide a precise, consistent, positive stimulus that will challenge these muscles and restore blood flow directly to these areas where stretching, movement, and rest are not sufficient.

Often times the tissue isn’t stimulated accurately and sufficiently to transform and shift from a bundled tight state, to a more fully contracting state. Certain areas of the body ex:(gluteus medius and minimus and muscles around the hip) are difficult to stretch. These areas respond well to direct pressure.  I do not suggest stopping any stretching or movement practices. Any blood flow to an area is needed and beneficial. What I do suggest is moving your attention deeper into the different layers of your muscle fibers.  The SAID Principle is from the study of human physiology and it means Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. Your body always adapts to exactly what it does and the stimulus you place on it. Take foam rolling as an example. Have you been foam rolling for a while and it feels like its’ not doing anything? If so, that’s because that stimulus is no longer effectively challenging your tissue. 

 Another thing to consider is how much time are you spending in your recovery efforts? I recommend getting your recovery time to be half as much as you spend in training and sport endeavors. In my research I’ve found the body requires substantial amounts of blood flow to adapt to a stimulus and transform. Think in terms of hours, not minutes. 

Lastly, understanding and identifying your specific weak links and how to stimulate the tissue to support those joints is the key. This is a journey of self-discovery. The body is a beautifully, complicated structure that we can learn to tune into and listen to. The goal is to initiate a healing cascade that will transform the way we move in our bodies.

Thank you to all the athletes I've been fortunate to work with for all you taught me and for providing the inspiration for the STARwrap!

How to make muscle recovery a ritual

We have all adapted over time to the stresses of life and the bodies we now inhabit are very different from the ones we had just 10 years ago. This adaptation makes for a very interesting journey. ...and this is why recovery is such an important aspect of life in a human body

How a cyclist and desk jockey respond to and initiate recovery efforts will vary greatly. Blood flow for an active individual is normally extremely high and their muscles are vascularized which means recovery efforts will pay off tremendously. More sedentary lifestyles require more support with corrective exercises, increasing mobility, as well as increased direct pressure recovery efforts.   

My point is that our bodies are extremely good at meeting the demands we place on them. So how do you get yourself to do things that may seem boring, unnecessary, or flat out painful in order to bring about adaptive change for the better?  Can you remember how you moved 10 years ago?  If you can say you are moving better now than then, keep it up; you must be walking the path of ritual recovery. 

I'm sure you've had the experience of taking a deep breath and letting out the stress of the day. That letting go is the process of realizing you are carrying some stress, and the practice is to repeatedly lay your burden down. This needs to be intentional and duplicated. All the many ways we have of letting off steam are so important to battle against a great silent killer, stress. 

Yoga, exercise, hikes in the mountains, sitting comfortably with a good book, make them rituals. But sometimes we need to take it a step further, recognizing that our physical bodies will adapt and hold on to various stressors.

Sometimes our muscles need direct attention. Finding muscle relief as a practice can have a powerful impact on the way you move and live your life.

Here's a list of ways to make your recovery a ritual. 

1)  Provide your body with a consistent and precise positive stimulus.  Muscles will respond with blood flow, referred to as a cascade of healing.  This is a natural aspect of your bodies innate ability to adapt and heal. This is beyond stretching, or corrective exercise. Deep muscle fibers found in your body are bound up due to accumulation of stress and need consistent force applied to them to challenge them to release.

2) Learn to love therapeutic pain. I truly enjoy challenging my tightness and feeling the tissue open up. Just remember, don't be too agressive. Just because a little is good, doesn't mean a lot is better. More time gets the result, not necessarily more force. Increase force as you notice the tension release. Pain should diminish as your muscles release. If the pain persists, find a different area to treat. 

3) Become Empowered. You are responsible for your health. You can get yourself out of pain, and continue the lifestyle you love. Do not give up! Muscles adapt to everything you place on them. Use this truth for your own benefit. Provide yourself a consistent, precise, positive stimulus and you will experience optimal tissue health.

4)  Make it a Habit.  If you apply the first two ideas, you will start experiencing less tension in your body. This is the ritual of recovery, step by step, day by day. Remember you are what you do, and how good you can feel is brought about by challenging your body to adapt in ways that make you feel good. Carolyn Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit, believesour psychology becomes our physiology. We can let go of the past which is storing mental and physical stress, and embrace a new body, and a renewed mind. 

Be reasonable on your expecations. You have placed much stress on yourself, and you have adapted. Years and years of living creates tension patterns that accumulate. Be patient and enjoy the process of unwinding twisted bundled tissue, and restoring it to its' natural, relaxed, soft and supple state. 

 

Making a shift towards effective recovery strategies

I recently co-presented to a group of cyclists at the Rydeshack on the importance of recovery. Dr. Stephen Legate, a Sports Chiropractor, suggested that athletes should spend 1 hour of recovery efforts to every 5 hours of training. Recovery efforts include foam rolling, stretching, yoga, epsom salt soaks, hot tubs. That doesn't sound to difficult spending 1 hour doing yoga or soaking in a tub.

Athletes should spend 1 hour of recovery efforts to every 5 hours of training

That said, what can you start doing immediately to make sure you're getting the most out of your time in active recovery? Here are my recommendations:

1) Find the relevant muscle bundle

What I've learned is the most effective strategy for getting your body restored is identifying which muscles are most relevant to your joint or muscle tightness. A general rule of thumb is the harder and more dense the tissue, the more need of blood supply and stimulus is needed. But be careful!! These tight, bundled muscle fibers can be pulling so strongly on your tendons that the inflammation and tenderness passes well beyond the musculotendinous junction. In other words, do not go directly to the point you experience the pain. Rather, go to where the muscle fibers are able to handle the demand of pressure and stimulus without causing you any pain.

2) Be gentle

Once you've found a muscle that is contributing to your pain, apply a slow, steady, pressure. Keep the intensity within your pain tolerance and allow your body to absorb and adapt to it. Try not to be too forceful or direct with the application. Just because a little pain is good, does not mean more pain is better. Less is often times more when it comes to muscle stimulation and the bodies ability to adapt. So move slowly, and breathe deeply. 

3) Visualization

I often tell my clients to use their breath to focus on bringing oxygen to wherever we are working or you are receiving stimulus. The blood carries oxygen and as you inhale, visualize this blood moving towards the muscles, and as blood flows into the tissue, it becomes softer and more hydrated with fluid. I will tell my clients how the mind can actually control your body, and you  can harness the power of the mind to command your muscles to relax. 

4) Make it a ritual

The paradigm shift that needs to happen is to turn this experience into a enjoyable one. Rather than seeing this as work, and painful work at that. Look at the recovery process as an opportunity to restore your body to how it felt when you felt really good in your body. This may be difficult to remember, but I can say from my experience over the past 18 years working with clients in pain that the body can adapt and transform and become pain free again.

 

 

 

Homeopathic medicine:

I would also add Arnica Montana 200 CK, which is homeopathic medicine that helps with muscle soreness, bruising, and swelling. This is plant medicine that has no side effects and is something I refer most every client to using.

Tart cherry cider concentrate:

Another great recovery support is tart cherry cider concentrate. This is not the cherry juice, its' a concentrate that you take 2 tablespoons with water after exercise. I heard about this from a Tri-athlete friend and I've been getting great feedback from clients on its benefits for reducing muscle soreness and helping flush toxins from the muscles.