In her running series, Tao Minister and mind-body strength expert Tammy Wise is exploring the various areas of the Psyche-Muscular Blueprint. With each column she teaches us to connect to a different area of our internal systems so that we may achieve our best selves. Here, she shows us that our quadriceps are naturally inclined to move us forward… but sometimes you have to pause in order to accelerate. It’s literally mind over matter in this love story between vitality and inertia. (Read all the way down to receive a free mind-body video from BodyLogos!)
By Tammy Wise
I hop on my favorite cardio contraption—the elliptical machine—and start pumping my body to the music’s quick rhythm. My quads begin to burn with resistance, and my spirit starts to deflate with self-judgment. I already want to stop, but I just started! “Am I getting old? %$@#!”
Then I remember my exercise routine from my days as a dancer on the touring production of A Chorus Line: Before getting on the bus each day, I jogged for five minutes, walked for five minutes, and then resumed jogging. After a walking break, I was always relaxed in my body’s needs and could run for as long as I chose.
So, I do the equivalent on the elliptical and start pedaling at half-speed, reminding myself that my body is telling me what it needs. These needs are the same at 55 as they were at 19. And after a short while, I’m back pedaling to the quick beat blaring through the speakers.
Whether you’re a beginning exerciser or longtime enthusiast, the first 10 minutes or so of a workout can feel incredibly painful. The body revs up to try and comply with your expectation, which often doesn’t jive with what’s currently possible. It can feel as if your body is chasing your mind, because it is! In those early minutes, your mind and body are working to get on the same page, and once they are you can conquer a challenge with grace and ease. To help them get there, choose vitality by meeting inertia.
To choose vitality is to appreciate what the body needs to align with the mind’s goals. Even when your body is sedentary—sitting all day at your desk, sleeping through the night—your mind is working and dreaming. Mental deceleration to meet your body’s inertia is prudent, because your body has a sensitivity that your mind does not. Feel how much the body wants to satisfy your wishes and give life to your every whim; it is in service to your dreams!
Because of this sensitivity, your mind’s job is to listen for your body’s limits and keep your effort inside the limit of its strength. You know you have passed your limit when you feel physically weak and emotionally judgmental.
Judgments that impose any self-damnation deflate your vitality, as well as your self-esteem and enthusiasm. Treat yourself with kindness and respect when trying to move your body forward to reach an objective.
Embrace the enthusiasm that drives that first five minutes of your workout, which is powered by your quadriceps muscles. But know there is no shame in slowing down or backing off once you realize that to maintain your enthusiasm until your vision’s end, you need to temper the rhythm of your exertion. (For a look at how the muscular system is a storage container of your emotional life, refer to this previous article.)
Moving Forward Is Among Life’s Greatest Challenges, But It Doesn’t Have to Be Exhausting
When you use the muscular thrust of the quadriceps to move yourself forward in space, you channel their tremendous energy output toward fulfilling your life’s dreams. The uplifting anterior force felt in a quadriceps exercise, and when walking or running, rises up through your body, heart, and mind, inspiring new directions and possibilities. Whether you hope to reach a specific goal or just want to know that you can create forward momentum, this mind-body connection will empower your sense of self in the world.
But due to their unparalleled size, quadriceps muscles require a lot of energy to motivate. That means that if you exert them hastily and move too suddenly out of inertia, you can quickly feel exhausted. Similarly, when you begin a new project, you can feel overwhelmed by the energy it will take to move it forward, and can instantly feel drained. This startup overwhelm is actually not due to muscle exhaustion, but rather the effort it takes for such a massive organism to spring into action. The solution? Meet your inertia. Acclimate your workout with a light, high-repetition quadriceps exercise or cardio warm-up and the stretch below:
STANDING FOOT HOLD STRETCH
- Stand with your abdominal muscles lifted and your inner thighs together. Bend one knee and hold your foot in your hand, or bend your knee and place your foot on a bench behind you.
- If you are holding your foot in hand, pull your foot up toward your buttock as you lengthen the quadriceps down toward the floor. If you have placed your foot on a bench, bend your supporting knee. Be sure your supporting foot is forward enough so the knee doesn’t bend in front of the toes.
- You can use a pole or wall to support your balance. In either case, keep your hip bones square to what’s in front of you.
Once the quadriceps muscles are aroused, they can perform with much less defiance. Expect their willingness to ebb and flow with your level of available energy. The moment you feel discomfort in your knees or low back, or a lack of vitality creeps into your experience, remember less is more, and reassess your expectations without judgment.
Physical discomfort, mental fatigue, and emotional overwhelm are all indicators that your energy reserve or the quadriceps muscles themselves are too exhausted to continue with integrity. This stretch will help.
If, however, you experience discomfort with sufficient vitality, realign your posture or lessen the outside resistance or pressure. This positions you to tap into the power your hamstrings have to release the quadriceps eagerness to please.
Relax in Your Journey’s Forward Direction
When we keep our focus on a destination or goal, we can lose sight of the dream’s purpose and our heartfelt relationship with that purpose. Running toward a destination and employing the tremendous force from the quadriceps muscles without releasing through the opposing hamstrings extension can leave us in a prolonged state of chase, which overtaxes our back and/or knees, as well as accumulates unnecessary tension.
Rather than focusing on the bigger purposeful picture, we think small and judge our decisions as right or wrong, good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable. The dread of such judgment or the anger accompanying a mistake can cause us to be tentative or overbearing in our forward movement. Releasing that tension, the burn experienced in the quadriceps muscles, prepares us for truthful reflection that will ultimately guide future choices, propel forward momentum, and reconnect us to our purpose.
Recognize tentative or overbearing moments as the need to balance your enthusiasm with relaxed presence. This exercise brings awareness to your extending hamstrings muscles and helps establish alignment for relaxed low backs and knees. It helps you easily recognize when you are in resistance to or overexerting your movement.
LYING LEG EXTENSION EXERCISE
- Lie supine, with one knee bent and foot flat on the floor and the other leg extended with a soft knee over a tube or rolled towel. Notice the natural curve of your low back, the degree of space between your waistline and the floor, and where your sacrum (the fused vertebrae below your low back curve) bears down into the floor.
- Extend the hamstring muscle under your extended leg’s knee to straighten your knee, while maintaining your low back curve and weight distribution. With the low back muscles relaxed and the spine’s neutral position intact, the weight that was once in the heels’ connection to the floor clearly transfers into the quadriceps muscles.
This exercise helps you to meet a challenge; in this case, experiencing the weight of your lower leg without over- or under-exerting the quadriceps. The released hamstrings extend under your quadriceps’ action to move forward, creating an undercurrent. The hamstring muscles are what move you backward in space and psyche-muscularly allot time for reflection, bringing the past into the present moment. Recognizing this connection point between the past and the future is the practice of presence.
This positioning between past and future allows you to feel how your past has prepared you for where you are headed and release the need to micromanage your every move. It can also allow you to experience how past perceptions or indoctrinations no longer serve you; as you release the hamstrings muscles, you also loosen your grip on keeping them in tow.
Moving forward through uncharted territories requires a great amount of physical energy and relaxed, fully present mental determination to carry out. Remember, life is not a race. You can slow down, assess, and adjust along the journey. Trust yourself to move forward intuitively.
To learn more about the BodyLogos Method and surrender tension in minutes, check out this FREE video!
Tammy Wise is a Tao Minister, mind-body strength expert, and founder of the BodyLogos holistic fitness method. Her writing and methodology has been widely featured in media including New York, TimeOut New York, Fitness, Shape, and Natural Health magazines. She is currently writing and producing a BodyLogos book and 3-D video system for online. Learn more about her training, holistic treatments, and products at bodylogos.com, or follow her on Twitter at @BodyLogos.