Now more than ever, we are finding ourselves juxtaposed between two worlds.
In one world, we want to be able to do more, lift more, fit more into our days; while in the other world, we find ourselves desperately desiring to chill out, to get real about a meditation practice, to not have stress kicking us in the pants at every turn.
Not to mention, the message is out there and the volume is turned to full blast –
Stress zaps fat loss efforts.
Stress zaps strength gains.
Chronic stress is absolutely affecting the gains you’re after in physique, performance, and health.
JC is well aware of this, having coached me through stressful periods of life and with his guidance on stress-reduction and nutrition, I saw my body comp get to a level I am incredibly pleased with.
And, we did this while paralleling the most stressful period of time I’d seen in the last 10 years – when my body comp, in the past, would have been falling apart, it actually improved tremendously.
JC is an amazing coach, one whom I respect immensely, that is for sure. So it was an honor when he turned to me for assistance on one of his goals.
“Can you help me get into lotus position?,” his text said.
We’d been talking about our meditation practice, and what tools we’d been using for handling stress in our lives.
He had a goal of incorporating more stillness into his day. In working on that goal, he felt compelled to work towards lotus position, the seated position used in many eastern meditation practices where you cross your legs and rest each foot on the opposing thigh — like this:
Now, I’m no yogi. So why was he asking me for help with this goal?
JC knew that one thing I’ve spent a lot of time doing is helping clients increase their mobility and build their foundational strength.
And in doing so, they’d begin to move better, feel better, and become durable little monsters who can take on the biggest and smallest of challenges in life. Normally, “taking on life’s challenges” involves ‘going and doing’ type of activities – running a marathon, playing on an indoor soccer league, hiking a mountain.
In this case, we were going a completely different route. But one that is as important, perhaps more so, than the route of ‘getting fitter so you can do more.’
We were going to get JC more mobile so that he could do LESS. So that he could find stillness.
Do Less, Get Way More
There is no getting around it. We simply must put attention on how our bodies recover, relax. If we want to reach our physique goals, get strong, and be healthy, we must balance out the aggressive modern lifestyle we all are subjected to day in and day out with de-stress modalities.
In JC’s case, he was aware and working at it by adding meditation to his life. But, he found very quickly that a part of the ‘de-stress strategy’ he wanted to be able to to do, he couldn’t do.
He couldn’t make his body fit into lotus position.
Maybe you can relate. Perhaps not with lotus position, but have you ever tried to relax – whether it be sitting & reading a book, laying in the grass watching your kid play sports, or staying still while doing your own meditation work – and found that you just can’t remain in that position for very long?
You feel like you have to continually change positions because your back starts aching.
Maybe you automatically know that sitting cross-legged is out because your knees “don’t go that way anymore.”
Or, you want to lie down and relax with your Netflix account but you need 5 pillows to prop yourself up into a comfy position.
Not to mention, if you’re already dealing with daily aches & pains, your mind has to get through those first, before you can get to the thoughts of ‘ah, relaxation’, or even before you think ‘ok, time to get out of bed’ in the morning.
If your body won’t let you be still enough to recover and rest from the hard work you put in both in the gym and in your day-to-day life, you will hamstring the results you get from both.
There are countless stories of hard-charging business men & women who keep going until their body fails them, and they wind up sick, in the hospital, or worse.
And we have ample data now showing us just how critical sleep, relaxation, and rest days are for performance & physique gains in the gym.
We’ve got to take a break, to recover, to balance out the aggressive lifestyle we lead in the 21st century.
Getting Closer To Lotus
JC & I kicked off this past New Years’ Day with his first walk-through of the mobility & stretching program I made for him to get him to his goal of achieving lotus.
I should back up a second though. JC & I don’t live anywhere near each other. In fact, we’ve only met in person once. (This is how internet friendships tend to work.)
After his initial request for a mobility program that could help him reach lotus, I immediately asked to have him film himself performing a series of movements in which I knew I’d see how his body was currently moving, and where it was holding him back.
This is something I do with every client of mine, whether in-person or online.
What tightness or restrictions did he have in his soft tissue that was holding him back from his goal?
Where did his muscles and connective tissue restrict him from moving into the zen?
You see, when our soft tissue is too short or bound up to allow certain movements to happen, we get the “ouch!” signal, we struggle mightily to reach the goal, or, we fail. period. end of story.
Or is it?
(the tl;dr is – it’s not the end of the story, it can be fixed, but you must get to work on your mobility)
I received JC’s movement videos & immediately saw where he had areas for opportunity. I also knew already how he spent most of his day – grinding away at a computer writing programs, creating content, and like so many adults today, staying in one position for most of his waking hours. JC also loves to train his lower body, so there’s a fair amount of mass down there to get more move-able into lotus position.
And so, I created a mobility program via video for him based on his specific limiters, giving him specific mobilization techniques and mobility drills to unlock his tightest areas and create pliability in his soft tissue where there currently was none.
And he got to work on it, and did so with a key understanding of what was ahead. You see, it takes time to undo tight, knotted-up soft tissue. Soft tissue is molded over months and years of repeated movement patterns.
He wasn’t going to get to lotus position overnight.
But with focused and consistent effort, he started moving in on his goal.
This Isn’t Just Mental
Here’s the reality.
If you want to relax, rest, just “chill out” your mind, you have to feel at-ease enough in your body to do that.
Often, we do mobility work so that we can be capable of doing more. It’s important to remember though that mobility work also is helpful for helping you relax into your body more.
You truly cannot accept into your life the positive health benefits of relaxation and meditation if you’re feeling physically uncomfortable the entire time you try to relax, de-stress, nap, chill out.
‘Relaxing comfortably’ is a goal you have. How do I know? Try doing the opposite – relax uncomfortably. It’s impossible. And would be annoying if you had to live life knowing that the only relaxing you could do would be uncomfortable.
So take care of your soft tissue. Unlock one key to better relaxation. Remove the hurdle that stands between you and a consistent meditation practice.
To help you get started on your mobility work (or to enhance your current mobility program), I’ve chosen two of the mobilization drills from my foundational strength & mobility program The Unbreakable Body that will help you unlock common areas of ache and discomfort.
The first is a release for your quad complex. This will start to free up the knee joint to bend and rotate to the degree that it needs to when you sit cross-legged. It also sets the hip joint to be able to get into extension better, which can have a direct impact on low back pain. Spend as much time as it takes to feel 50% better in how it feels, how painful it is, or how less tight it feels.
The second is a stretch that will open up, almost literally, everything. As you’ll see when you experience it for yourself, your knees, groin, hips, glutes, low back, mid back, even the muscle around your shoulder blades can feel a stretch on this one. Spend 15 seconds just breathing deeply as you hold this stretch. Undo, then repeat it up to 3 times total.
Quad Stretch Plus Knee Flexion:
Take a moment today and try these mobility drills. And as you relax into them, spend a little time considering what aspects of your life would be improved if you simply were able to relax into your body a bit better…if you were able to rest & recover more comfortably…if pain wasn’t the first thing you thought of as you laid in bed upon first waking to the day.
The opportunity is there. Seize it.