What is a knot? A knot is when the sufferer feels tension, and reaching his hand to touch the spot, he feels a raised lump of muscle.
What is the lump made of? If he rubs it back and forth, it feels crunchy, as if there were some substance in there. This crunching has lead many to guess that there are "calcium crystals" in there. When this image is believed, clearly the way to cure the knot would be to "break up the crystals." This requires "stripping," "breaking," and generally mechanical forces from outside the body to "tenderize" the meat of the muscles, like one of those wooden mallets used by thrifty cooks to tenderize cheaper cuts of beef. Of course, after mechanical force is applied from outside, he feels sore the next day. This is why he is advised to "drink lots of water." But what if a knot is not made of crunchy crystals?
I believe a knot is nothing but smooth muscle, raised to a wrinkle because it is pulling so hard. It is like rope that you twist and twist, until finally the fibers kink in the middle.
Why do I think this? Any muscle will soften in seconds when the person's brain changes its mind. After thirty seconds of softening, when I rub the muscle back and forth, there is no more crunching. If there were crystals there, where did they go? If nobody broke any crystals, how did they soften?
If instead, knots are only muscle fibers kinked from tension, then when the brain stops signaling it to "pull", the kink naturally flattens out without any mechanical force from outside.
The nice thing about relaxing muscles from within, is that there will be no soreness afterward. There will be soreness after "crystal breaking " or any mechanical force intended to break something in the muscle. When you intend to break something, something will break! Soreness includes bruising of the skin, bruising of the muscle, and little bits of broken muscle fiber. Of course you need to drink more water for a few days that the immune system needs to clean up the broken fibers and heal the bruises. On the other hand, when muscles relax from within, there is no need to drink more water because nothing was broken.
How do muscles relax?
Muscles respond only to brain decisions. (Well, that's mostly true. There are mini-brains in the spine that can also signal muscles to contract or relax temporarily. But after the spinal reflex is finished, the muscle will return to the last instructions the brain gave.) Muscles relax for good only when the brain commands them to relax.
In the absence of new signals from the brain, muscles will continue to do as they were doing. Muscles will actively contract (or "guard"), day and night, even after death, if this was the last command heard from the brain. (For this reason, animals who know they are about to be killed tense up, and the meat – which is only muscle – will still be contracting when it gets to your plate, you'll be eating millions of "tense up" molecular messengers sent from the animal's last thoughts to its muscles.)
We need to figure out what the brain wants, so that it will choose to relax.
Here is what does not work: Lengthening muscles by force. The brain knows that force is being used and so it will subconsciously choose to relent temporarily, returning to its previous tension settings by the time the person wakes the next morning. Worse, the brain now subconsciously mistrusts whomever used force to overcome its guard.
How To Invoke The Brain To Relax The Body
If we want the brain to freely choose relaxation, then it can not be forced to change.
Instead of forcing change, why not agree with the brain? When you find you can not rotate your head to the left, do not force it! Turn your head to the easy way. Contract lightly in the directions of comfort for about twenty seconds then gradually let it return to neutral. Do this a few times a day. If your body wants to go into a curled or bent position when you sleep, allow the body to go where it wants and help it. Get into a pool and let the body bend and curl in any direction it wants.
When it feels it has been heard, the brain feels honored that someone has taken the time to listen without judging the guarding as bad. It feels supported that someone is on its side and actually wants to assist its plan.
How Does It Work?
Once the brain sees that its limbs, joints and muscles are in the fullest contortion of guarding, (something happens within and) the guarding releases like magic. What happened? Maybe the brain has a sense of humor and needed to see how silly the guarding really looked when it was allowed to do what it planned. Maybe the most guarded position is a secret key that unlocks the double-lock vault where the tension was originally stored. Maybe it is just a playful time that allows the brain and body to lighten up. Maybe the symbolism of guarding as far as one can go, wears out the original command and it simply runs out of steam. Probably all of the above and more reasons too.
The Importance Of Immediate Feedback
Every muscle treatment I give, I ask the person, "Hey this muscle is softening, do you feel it?" Before the question, her brain had monitored relaxation only subconsciously. When a person has enough experiences noticing her own muscles relax, she gains conscious influence over her own muscle tension. Soon enough, she no longer needs outside assistance from a massage therapist, she can relax her own muscles from within, all by herself.
Complaints That Benefit From Invoking Brain To Relax Muscles
(Please understand I am not a Doctor, I am not licensed to diagnose, and I am not saying that any disease would be "cured.") Relaxation From Within Helps With:
- Aging (triggers PNS parasympathetic nervous system) gives back years of quality living, healthier skin, nails, hair, better digestion, lower heart rate, better blood pressure, lower anxiety, deeper breathing, etc.
- Asthma, Allergies, Histamine Reactions, Chemical Sensitivity, Hyper Sensitivities
- Athletes: those specific cramps at mile 22, low back pain for black belts (psoas muscle), Tendinitis (relax the muscle attached to that tendon), Tennis Elbow, Golfer's Elbow, etc.
- Atlas and Axis: by relaxing obliquus inferior and superior muscles that were jamming these two joints
- Brain: TBI brain injury, Stroke, MS, ALS, Encephalitis, Lyme, etc. (By boosting brain-muscle communication, intra-brain communication is enhanced)
- Dancers (psoas)
- Emotional Release (release not in outbursts, but gradually and constantly leaks away, a gentle rivulet of release), PTSD, "Shell Shock," automobile accident trauma, major surgery (traumatization can reside for decades after anesthesia and surgery), past life trauma (encapsulated in pearl gray capsules in the hippocampus and medulla oblongata, regulated by the centrum and the cerebellum)
- Fatigue, CFS, Fibromyalgia, Candida, etc. (Reducing muscle tension without the next-day soreness, ends the pain-spasm-pain loop)
- Hip Rotators and Shoulder Rotator Cuff (tendons heal faster when no longer under tension from muscles)
- Irritable Bowel or Poor Digestion (colon has spiral muscles that need to relax to move the food smoothly and effectively)
- IT band (which is the common tendon of the Tensor Fascia Latte and Gluteus Maximus muscles)
- Job-Related Injuries, Stress, Overuse Injuries, Tendinitis, Carpal Tunnel (more likely wrist extensors), Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, tingling in the fingers, numbness, (pectoralis minor, scalenes, atlanto / axial joint, subscapularis), Sciatica, Bursitis, pain down the leg, numbness or tingling in the foot (piriformis, pectineus, TFL) (muscle tension restricts vein, artery and nerve flow)
- Low Back Pain: (relax the lumbar sidebenders and psoas)
- Lumbar Rotation, sometimes diagnosed as rotoscoleosis: (tight psoas muscle can rotate lumbar spine)
- Type "A" personality, SNS (sympathetic nervous system) always on, "Fight Or Flight," Adrenaline Junkie, High Blood Pressure, Hypertension, Cold Hands and Feet, Sweaty Palms, Anxiety, Tongue Tied, Butterflies In Stomach, etc.
- Yoga Practitioners and Teachers: overstretching injuries, low back pain (psoas,) loss of hip medial rotation (piriformis too tight, TFL too weak)
We live in a generation of dramatic change. Force never really worked well. We never really needed to depend on an Authority Of Healing to fix our knots, kinks, and ailments. It is time to use the gifts within.