Understanding how the mechanics of the human body works can be difficult. At the simplest level, we need to understand how pushing (compression) and pulling (tension) occurs in the body. It’s tempting to think that compression is just the opposite of tension, and as a result, nature has no preference between the two. It’s tempting indeed, but like a lot of common sense notions, when you look a little closer, it is in fact not the case at all. Continue reading
Last time, we looked at how your posture is affected by how your nervous system remembers what is “normal” for you. Your brain calibrates your muscle spindles (the muscle length detectors) so that your muscles know how long they should be at rest, and this is commonly how muscles can become chronically over-shortened (locked-short). The natural question to ask next is whether your muscles can become chronically over-lengthened (locked-long)? The answer is yes!
Changing your posture can be a tricky business. All too often we try not to make ourselves crane our necks forwards while we work at our computers, or try not to let our shoulders rise when we are stressed. Does it work? If only it were that simple! So why is it that trying to change our posture is so difficult? Continue reading
It’s often said that restoring health is about achieving balance in a patient, however, the problem is that balance is a term which means many different things. In the west, balance means preventing any one quantity from dominating its opposite. This is because the western concept of opposites is exclusive and antagonistic (e.g. good versus evil, light versus dark). In contrast, the eastern view of opposites is inclusive and complementary. Opposites are essentially different sides of the same coin. (Exactly how this is the case, however, is almost always far from obvious). As a result, balance can only come about when both opposites occur at the same time, in equal measure (e.g. treble and bass, stillness and movement). Continue reading
From school, most people are aware of the way in which bones transmit compressive forces, and muscles transmit tensile forces. Muscles connect body parts over small to medium distances, however, fascia (a type of connective tissue – see my previous post) joins muscle to muscle and is continuous from head to toe. This means that forces applied, for example at your hands, can travel to your feet and back without a single muscle in your body having to contract. Continue reading
Last time, I talked about good technique, the kind where you can be simultaneously strong and relaxed (or better put, effortlessly strong), and how this comes about through engaging the passive strength of connective tissue. Connective tissue is a term which actually refers to lots of different structures within the body. However, all these structures act together to form the structural framework, to which the “other bits” hang on. Continue reading
When I was just beginning martial arts, my teacher would tell me to relax, but I could never understand how to generate strength at the same time. It was only years later, that I realised that this ability (also known as having “good technique”) did not come from actively contracting muscles, but from the ability to engage the passive strength of connective tissue. Continue reading