All of our negative emotions cause a shortening or increased contraction of our flexor muscles. These changes immediately affect our posture by affecting specific muscle groups. Over time, habitual posture patterns from frequent negative emotions affect the length of our muscles and cause changes in our connective tissue. As we age, gravity begins to take its toll, and inefficiencies in our ways of moving add to the problem. The result is postural distortion.
The Spectrum of Posture: As the number and severity of connective tissue lesions increase, so does the prevalence of pain and poor posture.
Charles Darwin was the first make the observation that the initial reaction to a frightening stimulus is a violent contraction of flexor muscles, especially of the abdominal region. As I said before, all negative emotions cause increased tension or contraction of flexor muscles. What are our flexor muscles? Flexor muscles are the muscles that pull our body into fetal position, versus our extensor muscles which make us stand-up straight like a proud parent or a soldier at attention. In adults, fetal position is the position of extreme shock or fear. Along with this shortening of flexor muscles, an inhibition of extensor muscles goes together with all sensations accompanying fear. Fetal position can be this extreme state of fear.
Fetal position is commonly encountered in humans undergoing extreme traumatic stress. In fetal position, all major flexor muscle groups are shortened while extensor groups are lengthened. This pattern is at the far end of the extremes of negative emotions.
Modified Fetal Position in Fear State: Here we have another severe state of negative emotion. Like fetal position, all major flexor muscle groups are shortened, while extensor groups are lengthened. These muscular patterns occur along a spectrum.
Although the negative emotion is not as severe here as in the other photo, we still have a similar pattern of shortened flexor muscle groups. Only in this photo, the negative emotion is not as severe, and neither is the posturing as pronounced.
On the flip-side to negative emotions, positive emotions are associated with a lengthening of flexor muscles and postural patterns that are “opposite” those of fetal position.
Here we have the opposite of a negative emotional state. In a relaxed posture, flexor musculature is lengthened. Even just looking at this photo gives me a sense of ease!
Here we have a happy camper. Major flexor groups are lengthened and at the same time extensor muscles are shortened. Looks like a lot of fun!!!
Over time, negative emotions create poor postural and muscle patterns which become habit. The corresponding muscles and connective tissue then become permanently shortened. This can cause that feeling of “tight muscles”, and it can also be entirely subconscious as well. From a strictly mechanical point of view, the connective tissue is organized in chains to defend the body against these restrictions. When a connective tissue restriction grows beyond a certain point however, the rest of the fascial continuum adjusts, modifying elasticity and changing fiber directions. This change in shape transforms healthy chains into lesional changes that can exhibit as poor posture, pain and dysfunction.
Release of these connective tissue restrictions often brings about a corresponding relief of pain, negative emotions and a restoration of a sense of peace and well being. This is one of the reasons yoga and tai-chi can be so therapeutic. They restore and prevent lesional changes in the connective tissue. To accomplish release of connective tissue lesions in a therapeutic setting, I utilize what I call matrix bodywork treatments. Matrix bodywork combines elements of postural analysis and passive fascial lengthening to pinpoint and correct specific connective tissue restrictions. I blend these techniques with shiatsu, gentle visceral manipulation, cranial-sacral therapy and homeopathic cellular drainage to cleanse and treat the connective tissue. In this way a safe environment is created to explore and release patterns of emotional tension in the body.
In the next blog post, we will discuss fascinating aspects of the nervous system and specifically how this hardwiring relates to connective tissue, fear, pain, and human performance. We will learn how many of our postural patterns are based on a fear of falling and how fear is hardwired into our nervous system.
-Dr. Jake Felice
©2011 J. F. Felice, ND