Stretching, and hidden pockets of built-up pain

This weeks post is a little different than usual. I’ll be back next week with a new series of posts on Sweden’s history of racism, but tonight I’m sharing some thoughts I had a few days ago during one of my regular late night stretching sessions.

I’ll start with stating that I believe that there’s a direct link between mental strain and physical pain. This has also been scientifically proven through various studies for ex. around mental illness and its effects on the body (see this for an example or if you’re unfamiliar with the theory). Most of us have either experienced a stomachache from being nervous, gotten a headache from sheer frustration or heard of another person’s aching neck caused by stress. This is common, and generally accepted. Our brain is what registers that we’re in pain, but also what causes us to feel emotion, so it’s very likely that more of our mental activity has manifested itself physically (aside from an obvious stomachache). Maybe we’re just unaware of the actual amount of ”saved up” pain that our body is holding on to?

So, I was stretching my lower back, which is one of my problem areas in the sense that it’s really tight, like it’s very not flexible, and it’s been tight for as long as I can remember. I blame it on my lack of consistent stretching in life up until recently as well as me not really using it for anything (except everyday to literally hold my body up). Nothing strange about it, most people have issues with their lower back due to all the sitting and slouching we do on a day to day basis. I did what I normally do, breathe through it and lean into the pain. That’s the blessing and the curse of stretching for flexibility, it’s painful, yet enjoyable, you just get used to it (kinda). As I felt the tension lift from the muscles in my lower back, I slowly started feeling a breeze of sadness accompanying the usual wave of relief and focus. Where it came from? I don’t know, maybe it was a subconscious reaction to the Brent Fiyahz track I was listening to at the same time, or an old thought that slipped by without me noticing, all I know is it was gone as quickly as it came. The thought that arose then was that it’s easy to forget that some of the mental strains or traumas we go through in life get stored in our body physically, either in forms of instant pain or for them to appear later when it’s too late for us to connect the dots. As I mentioned in the intro, what I mean is that the mental pain we feel (stress), literally manifests itself as physical pain (also stress).

Most of us don’t know our bodies that well. We harbor tightness/stiffness, bad posture and injuries or neglect it through improper diet, no exercising or other unhealthy habits. We can’t overlook that a lot has changed in terms of how humans live now vs how humans lived back when our bodies still had time to keep up with our technological advancements. Maybe we need to start viewing these hidden tight spots, caused by mismanagement or stress, these muscles holding on to tension, as physical manifestations of us holding on to our ”bad” feelings over time? A consequence from us not setting time aside for proper self-care. Keep in mind this is just me speculating, my brain is making it sound more philosophical than it needs to. Yet it’s an interesting and strangely beautiful thought to think about possible ways in which our mind and body physically display and actualize their tight connection and reliance on each other. The conclusion to this train of thought ended up being that If I take good care of my body, it’ll make sure to take care of me too.

In reality, the positive effects of stretching, focused breathing, as well as exercise are all well documented things. I know that the relief I feel is most definitely an endorphin high. Still. We tend to carry impacts of life with us on the outside in the form of burn marks, scars and wrinkles, it wouldn’t be too surprising if we unknowingly carried some of it with us on the inside too, not just as thoughts and memories in our brain, but as tangible parts of our body.