Our muscles develop learned habits. Repeated muscle movements—ranging over a period of time—are the simplest form of body learning. However, very subtle but poor movement habits also affect muscle tone. If a muscle completely relaxes after a movement it has a tonus of zero. If, however, a muscle does not completely relax after its movement, the tonus can climb to 10, 20, 30 or even 40 percent. Thomas Hanna writes in his book Somatics, “If the tonus is 10 percent, the muscle will always feel tired and firm. If the tonus is 20 percent, the muscle will feel tired, very firm and sore. If the tonus is 40 percent, the muscle will feel tired, hard and quite painful.” Stretching exercises soften muscle tonus, relaxing hard muscles and allowing them to rest.
The most common connective tissues are our tendons and ligaments. Each muscle has microscopic strands of connective tissue running through it. Every muscle also has an envelope of connective tissue surrounding it called fascia. When your feel like your muscles are all knotted up, it’s actually the fascia surrounding the muscles that have gotten stuck together.
The connective tissues are made up of collagen, which strengthens them, and elastin, which gives them elasticity. The “tanning” process is due to dehydration of the connective tissue, resulting in less elastin and more collagen. But flexibility does not rely on the elastin-to-collagen ratio in the connective tissues alone.
Muscle health also depends on its symbiosis with our nerve reflexes. It is our nerve reflexes that control the ability to move and stretch. Over time, however, our nerves contract, establishing a length for each muscle based on how much we move daily. This is called a muscle’s “stretch reflex.” If we try to move past this stretch reflex point, the nerves revolt and cause a muscle spasm. We feel their pain.
Alan Davidson is the author of the free report "Body
Breakthroughs for Life Breakthroughs: How to Peak Your
Physical, Emotional, Mental, Moral, and Spiritual IQs for a
Sensational Life" available at
Alan's also the author of Body Brilliance: Mastering Your
Five Vital Intelligences, the #1 Health and Wellness book
and Winner of Two 2007 Book-of-the-Year Awards.
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