Change Your Future by Stepping Back: In her running series, Tao Minister and mind-body strength expert Tammy Wise is exploring the various areas of the Psyche-Muscular Blueprint. With each column she teaches us to connect to a different area of our internal systems so that we may achieve our best selves. Here, she explains how our hamstring muscles hold the secret to successfully altering our destinies. Intrigued? (Read all the way down to receive a free mind-body video from BodyLogos!)
By Tammy Wise
The hardest thing about change is making the change. I mean, actually remembering to change.
Separating sugar from dairy in my diet was a recent undertaking that asked me to step back from many regular habits. Sugar in my coffee, milk on cereal, and the late afternoon slice of banana bread were all off limits! But I’d repeatedly order, “Coffee, light, one sugar, please,” then in my morning stupor remember that I didn’t actually want that. I craved it, though, so rather than bothering the server I consoled myself by saying, “Tomorrow I WILL remember!”
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow… yikes!
This desired shift needed a habit-breaking action to interrupt my cravings or I would just carry on without creating any change indefinitely. So I started a new habit of taking a step back away from everything before taking action. A moment of pause between things was the perfect remedy. I quickly began stepping back from the counter, refrigerator, or cupboard for a moment before making a choice and remembering, “I’m sweet enough already!”
This simple action of stepping back continues to serve me, not only with my diet, but also with any critical moment I ought to pause or reflect before taking action.
So much of what we do in life is about forward advancement. The suggestion to slow down can prompt an impervious eye-rolling response. However, the suggestion to step back and take a broader look can be met with curiosity.
An actual step backward, rather than slowing down your forward pace, does something unique. It concentrates your forward momentum. Like a ski jumper whose forward momentum, when propelled up and forward over their ski tips in the air, is secured in abdominal strength and bound feet as if still on the ground. This secure reinforcement carries the same power as a step backward. The opposition between flying and grounding creates an arrow-like effect.
Stepping back secures your forward momentum in your abdominal center, like the ski jumper, simultaneously centering your mental focus and connecting you to your higher Self. Movement back is a hamstring activity that reminds you to reflect, to see who you have been, the way you have influenced others and yourself, and when you have felt most authentic. (For more about how to feel authentic within yourself, the full BodyLogos Psyche-Muscular Blueprint is depicted in this previous article.) Backward movement brings consciousness into each moment to sculpt personal integrity into your present and future actions.
Moving Backward in Space is a Metaphor for Moving Backward In Time
Hamstring muscles are responsible for moving you backward in space physically and in time mentally. Reflecting back on the past can give you reference points to measure growth, assemble learned information, and review the beliefs forming your present perspectives about living. Reflection can also cause you to reignite, and transform if you choose, the regret from mistakes or transgressions of the past.
To support the open-minded outlook needed to reassess past actions that avail you for future change, your movement needs to be connected to the essential intelligence of your Dan Tien––your physical center of gravity in your low abdominal muscles (as described in the ski jumper’s position). This allows a different response to the same mundane stimuli and releases the fear living in the lower back muscles, which is easily provoked by a leg challenge.
The tendency for the hamstring muscles to share responsibility or split off from their reflective nature is parallel with the challenge to stay connected within yourself when revisiting past hardships. Therefore, it’s important to have a clear reference of what the hamstring muscles feel like as an isolation. You can then practice staying connected inwardly with the hamstrings’ meditation––movement backward, while they stay connected with the outside resistance—the life challenge being reflected upon.
Prone Knee Bend with Tube Exercise
- Relax the weight of your hipbones and knees equally into the floor.Lie face down with one ankle resting over a tube. Notice the length in your lower back and openness in the front bend of your hip joints (iliopsoas muscles).
- Slowly fold the bent knee further by asking the bottom of the foot to press toward the sky. As your hamstring muscle leads your movement, become aware of the tendency to engage the iliopsoas and lower back muscles, causing the knee to press into the floor and hipbones to release away from the floor.
- Encourage the hamstrings to stay connected by keeping the hipbones and knees connected to the floor.
- Return the leg to its starting position. Repeat until there is no extraneous involvement.
When challenging the hamstring muscles, slowly connect to the outside resistance with a quiet spine (central nervous system) and awakened abdominal center (spirit self). Create the change you want to see in your life, beginning inside your body.
Moving Backward Can Feel Irritating
A step back can spur on the concern of being left behind or having taken the wrong step forward. To neutralize these responses, be aware of your quadriceps muscles (forward movement) releasing as your hamstring muscles contract, reversing your energy’s often-automatic forward drive. (Like when I ordered my coffee light and sweet without thinking.) This energy shift releases expectations about the future so you can first find peace with past and present moments. No doubt, my nervousness about failing at my new dietary regimen was an unconscious influence in my forgetting to act on it.
When challenging the hamstring muscles, be mindful of the quadriceps muscles’ submission, and let time stand still for the present moment to unfold. Recognize how the past has prepared you for this moment in time and realize the purpose of its unfolding. Embody the past and the future as a metaphysical tale teaching you about the richness of presence. Explore the universal purposefulness that has formed your life.
In the same vein, when done challenging the hamstring muscles, give them ongoing attention no matter what surfaces in your meditation. Flexibility is paramount when realizing past choices were shortsighted or naive. When the hamstrings are so tight that a stretch is unable to penetrate, it limits the degree of accessible strength in the muscle and in your ability to reflect back with honesty. This stretch is designed to penetrate the muscle belly, rather than the tenuous areas behind the knee and at the sitz bone attachment sites at the base of your pelvic floor.
Single-Leg Hamstring Stretch with Flexed Foot Stretch
- Sit tall on your sitz bones––the pointy bones in each buttock––extending one leg forward with a flexed foot. Place the center of a Dyna-Band, yoga strap, or hand towel at the ball of your foot, holding the Dyna-Band ends tight enough to enforce a relaxed flexion in the ankle.
- Keeping your extended leg straight, pull the Dyna-Band toward your belly button while drawing the belly button toward the Dyna-Band.
- This step elongates the spine, allowing the crown of the head and the pelvic floor to reach apart. It’s often necessary to stretch through the upper calves’ tightness before you can penetrate the belly of the hamstring muscles. Be patient, this can take time.
- Hold for fifteen to thirty seconds. Release and repeat several times. This can also be done while standing without a Dyna-Band, strap, or towel.
Maintain an elongated spine and neck, and stay connected to your abdominals’ stability as you release the grab of your hamstring muscles. You will be actively surrendering self-criticism and blame, while liberating personal potential.
Hamstrings are the only muscle group that moves you upward and backward in space by decompressing the fear and protection held in your lower and upper back muscles. With fearful protection diminished, the energy that connects into your abdominal center (spirit self) allows new reference points and conclusions to unfold from your past experiences.
Tammy Wise is a Tao Minister, mind-body strength expert, and founder of the BodyLogos holistic fitness method. Her writing and methodology has been widely featured in media including New York, TimeOut New York, Fitness, Shape, and Natural Health magazines. She is currently writing and producing a BodyLogos book and 3-D video system for online. Learn more about her training, holistic treatments, and products at bodylogos.com, or follow her on Twitter at @BodyLogos.