Extreme fitness has become increasingly popular in our culture. Crossfit and Bootcamp classes are designed to push us beyond our limits and prepare us for an Armageddon like disaster. Sledgehammers, kettle bells, heavy weights, martial arts and sprinting with backpacks full of rocks are often activities that are on the menu. Exercise protocols often borrow heavily from training programs for the Navy Seals and other military organizations.
The credo of extreme fitness is that we should all be ready at any moment to face danger, be it fire, tsunami or terrorism. With a gladiator body, you are ready to face anything. Images of hard, chiseled bodies beckon us to join the culture of fitness. They have come to represent an elite team of athletes that anyone can join with hard work and dedication.
Our posture and body alignment can be shaped by the exercises we do.
Here’s what happens with extreme exercise: As muscles become bulkier, they shorten. That’s why serious bodybuilders often become muscle bound. Their bodies become more compressed forfeiting length for the strength.
Exercising to create a six pack belly is a surefire recipe for shortening the muscle and fascia (myofascia) of the belly, waistline and ultimately, the overall structure. Crunches and leg lifts not only reduce the length of the rectus abdominis, they also shorten the hip flexor or psoas muscle. As the abdominal and hip flexor muscles become shortened, the height of the waistline is reduced and the lumbar spine becomes compressed. This distortion of the structure inevitably leads to back pain.
Over time, flexibility diminishes.
As the muscles and their fascial wrappings shorten movement becomes labored and efficiency is lost. Many people exercise to improve their appearance. Ironically, extreme fitness yields a shorter stockier structure.
As the body shortens it loses organization around the vertical line.
Length helps you to stay more organized around a vertical axis. This length is available to everyone, whether you are short or tall, thin or full figured.
Rolfers aspire to help you become as vertical as possible within the gravity field.
Since humans are bipeds they are uniquely challenged to develop a harmonious relationship with gravity.
How then can we cultivate length in our bodies?
Hatha yoga is a form of exercise that helps you maintain length and flexibility. Yoga asanas both stretch and strengthen your muscles while cultivating alignment around the vertical axis. Tai Chi and Chi gong are also practices that promote strength, flexibility, verticality and inner peace.
The Rolfing Technique of Structural Integration releases chronic shortenings within the myofascial network. As the tensions become more equal throughout the body, the structure moves towards length and symmetry. This balance within the structure makes for highly efficient, graceful, elegant body, a beautiful body.