How Physical Flexibility Improves Mental Performance

Been a while since you slid into the splits, isn’t it? I get it. You’re a little older than you were two years ago and maybe that fave yoga teacher of yours moved away. And between balancing growing your business, managing the day-to-day, and the kids who has time to stretch, right?

Flexibility is commonly the LAST thing people think about...until they’re in physical pain.

In my Pilates days, one of the most common problems I saw was a lack of flexibility. Back then, I only assessed the physical. Yet, as I learned more about our glorious minds, flexibility is a key to maintaining sanity let alone physical agility. Looking back on the hundreds of clients I worked with in Pilates, the ones who were the most stressed out, most emotionally taxed, most stuck in a fixed mindset (meaning totally not open to new ideas or new ways of thinking) were also the ones who were the LEAST flexible physically.

You see, back in 1989 Dr. Deepak Chopra, in his book Quantum Healing, said that “Neurotransmitters bathe every single cell in your body.” Prior to that, scientists believe that neurons and neurotransmitters only resided in the brain.

Here’s how it works: electrical information comes to the top neuron, then it hits the synaptic gap, and that information is transferred to the bottom neuron via the chemical neurotransmitters that carry that electrical charge to the bottom neuron. What this means is that there is no direct connection between the electrical impulses and the cells except that there is this chemical connection.

This is literally the mind-body connection.

So what you got going on between your ears affects every single cell throughout your body. And vice versa.

That’s one of the reasons I got into coaching in the first place years ago and out of working on just the physical realm. Because I saw more people had a problem with how they perceived their bodies, rather than the actual physical task of exercise. I saw that if I could help someone shift their perception, their mindset around their body, their body would also shift as well.

How to Be More Flexible in Mind + Body

No.1 - If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It

Start by addressing your physical flexibility. The physical realm is a lot easier to control and master sometimes than the emotional or mental. All take practice. But you’re probably more used to training your body than your mind or your emotional reactivity.

How often are you stretching?

Imagine you’re an athlete suiting up to go out onto that field (aka your laptop), how often are you taking stretch breaks to move your body? How often are you keeping muscles (and your mental muscles) warm throughout the day so you don’t pull something (or bust a gasket)?

By stretching your body you also train your brain to be more flexible as well.

Because your neurotransmitters bathe every single cell in your body, when your body is physically more flexible, your mind believes that YOU holistically are more flexible - more emotionally flexible so you can adapt to agitating or upsetting situations faster, and more mentally flexible so you can “go with the flow” more when you’re trying to solve a tough problem.

So take a yoga class. Do some midday stretching on your breaks. Foam roll at night. Show your mind how you can be more flexible, by moving your body.

No.2 - Momentum from Mental Mobility

If you’ve ever done any crowdfunding project like on Indiegogo or Kickstarter, You’ve probably heard of “stretch” goals. It’s an additional goal you set for your campaign in case you exceed your initial goal. In business, sometimes they’re also called “ambitious” goals, and, to the skeptical, “unrealistic” goals.

Yet having stretch goals is important to maintaining your mental flexibility. A stretch goal is a goal designed to push your limits beyond what has been previously achieved.

Stretch goals require you to think differently. They make innovation a necessity.

So if you want to stretch yourself, stretch your goals. It’s like Les Brown says, “Shoot for the moon for even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”

No.3 - Feelin’ Flexibility

I was at a conference in January 2018 where Dr. Jeffrey MacGee spoke about emotional reactivity. In fact throughout his lecture he provoked the audience with topics most speakers would never address on stage...politics and religion. Words like DACA and Trump, that would send many audiences to their knees, fists flying up in the air, and any speaker running for the hills, spilled from his mouth.

Yet, he did this to gauge the audiences’ level of emotional reactivity, meaning our seemingly uncontrollable reaction to a stimulus. Emotional reactivity generally takes you out of your comfort zone (of comfortable emotions) and into a state of feeling victimized. Your brain literally shifts into operating into a different region, the amygdala, which controls our instantaneous emotional responses. It’s likely the brain region that controls the affective system. Safe vs. Threatening. Friend vs. Foe. Good vs. Evil.

And it’s totally subjective. Just look at how people react on Facebook and you’ll see people’s amygdala at work all day, everyday.

To combat this primal reaction, practice mindfulness.

In order to become more emotionally flexible so that we react with mindfulness, practice meditation. According to a new study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, you can reduce your emotional reactivity by doing a short bout of meditation to bring you back to mindful. In fact, more studies show that the amygdala decreases in brain cell volume after mindfulness practice. And the grey matter of our brains actually increases in our prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex by mindfulness.

Our brains are designed to adapt constantly based on new information. Give her some new info by putting into practice some new habits. Stretch, meditate, and set some really awesome goals to get you further forward faster than you ever dreams.

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