Thursday 9 July 2015

Letting it go

Muscle tension and tightness is costly to our bodies, it restricts our movement and can lead to further problems.  Take neck or shoulder tension, which can eventually lead to problems with the shoulder joint and / or tension headaches. 

If you regularly go to exercise classes, lift weights or take part in sport with very tight, tense muscles and work them extremely hard you may not be doing your body any favours.

In our Pilates classes, we work on releasing muscle tension first to increase our flexibility before we work hard and challenge stability and strength.

What needs releasing?

It can be quite difficult to know where in our bodies we carry our tension.   Some of us hold our mouth tense, with the tongue lodged to the top of the mouth and the lower jaw tight.  Many of us feel tension in our shoulders and neck.   Long hours of sitting or standing can lead to stiffness and tension in the back too.

How you walk and run will also impact on your body, e.g. how you distribute your weight through your feet as you move will affect soft tissue in the feet, legs, plus potentially hips and lower back too.

It's good to be aware of when and where you feel tightness creeping into your body.  Ideally, we would all be able to identify tension and start to consciously relax our muscles and so avoid the need to unwind tension later on.

Ways to let it go

Having done Franklin Method training with Polestar Pilates, I find Franklin Method equipment is fantastic for muscular and fascial release. 

Using Franklin balls under the feet releases the fascia which in turn creates a release further up the leg and even around the hip joint.    Using them under the glutes while lying on your back has a great effect on gluteal release plus a positive impact on the lower back.

With releases, we generally work with gravity, rather than against it.   The exercise below comes from Susanne Perks, a great teacher at Perks Pilates.  The exercise uses a wall to partially take the weight of your legs.  This allows your arms and upper body to relax fully.   A less relaxing alternative (that works against gravity) is holding one thigh with your hands.   This means that the weight of both legs is taken partially through your arms.   You may end up with some release for the glutes but more tension in your neck, shoulders and back muscles!

Lying Gluteal Stretch

Lie on your back in front of a wall.   Have your feet on the wall, legs straight.   Bend your right knee so the right ankle sits on top of your left thigh (pictured left).

Slowly bend your left knee so that your left foot comes lower down the wall (pictured right).   As you do this you should feel a stretch across the outside of your right hip and potentially along the outside of your right thigh.   Stay in position for a minute of so and relax as you enjoy the stretch.

This stretch shouldn't cause discomfort in your knee, hip or back.  If it does, please stop.

Why not have a go?    And do post your comments on the importance of letting it all go!

Happy Holidays!

More info;
Franklin Method 
Polestar Pilates
Perks Pilates


  1. Thanks Caroline for the useful advice. Enjoy July and August.
    Jean R

  2. Thanks Caroline for the useful advice. Enjoy July and August.