Health versus Fitness:
The Health↔Fitness Spectrum
Although health and fitness are closely related with a certain amount of overlap, we refer here to FITNESS as focused on primarily Strength, Endurance, Cardio & gross motor Coordination (SECC).
Health, as defined in the context of this manual, refers to building and maintenance (and recovery, if necessary) of all physiologic processes of the human bodymind. Physiologic processes refer here to those functions activated and controlled by the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system including metabolic, immune, self-healing, rest and tissue regenerative functions.
On the one hand, parasympathetic processes require a very different, nearly opposite style and degree of stimulation to the nervous system than does fitness (as, again, we are using the terms in this manual). The focus of our work with DSL Edgework or Let-Go Yoga then, as opposed to SECC, is on Tension & Stress Reduction Strategies (or TSRS), which supports the parasympathetic function more directly and fully.
On the other hand, the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system is more associated with overt, strength-based actions and fitness-related activities. It also controls what I call the 4-F System: Fright, Freeze, Fight or Flight. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to work effecticiently (effective plus efficient) with both sympathetic and parasympathetic systems at the same time. They require very different inputs to optimize their functions, and require significantly different forms of exercise and, in more extreme cases, therapies.
We’ll not much deal directly with the sympathetic system in this paper, except to reduce its often excess functions, although the benefits of that can for some people be vast, even profound. We’ll be focusing mostly on activating and enhancing the parasympathetic system and therefore the health end of the Health↔Fitness Spectrum.
CLARIFICATION on Health versus Fitness
Ironically, in my 40 plus years in Private Practice as a yoga/bodywork therapist, it is my most “fit” clients who’ve had the most neuromuscular, myofascial & musculoskeletal problems. They very often have many more than the usual aches, pains & dysfunction stemming from Chronic, Excess, MusculoFascial, & Nerve Tension & Stress developed from their physical activities, including many forms of exercise. (Please see other pages on the website for more on C.E.M.&.N.T.)
Yes, increased fitness improves your metabolic and structural health up to a point. But the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in if you do not perform enough Tension & Stress Reduction Strategies (TSRS) to balance out the inevitable stresses, strains, and tensions that WILL eventually accumulate from strength-oriented exercise.
Even many yoga teachers around the world have ended up with debilitating pain and/or dysfunction, sometimes resulting in hip, knee or disc surgeries … or other areas of their bodies are in trouble. It is my view that much of this is the result of too aggressive an approach to yoga — too much SECC (even in yoga) — and not enough TSRS. Their C.E.M.&.N.T. is further compounded by the aggressive forcing of the body into so-called “Proper Alignments” that I consider to be, in many cases, counter-productive at best, dangerous or even debilitating at worst.
If one aggressively pursues SECC without TSRS, even while doing what might loosely be called “yoga,” the only question is the degree and how soon the negative results will manifest in your life. Yes, just as there are those few who can eat and drink junk and smoke all their lives with no apparent health problems, there are a few of us who do not seem too much affected by accumulating muscle tension and stress.
Question Is: are you one of them? How would you know? And do you want to take that risk? Or do your prefer prevention?
Sometimes, an Ounce of Prevention is worth TEN TONS of Cure!
DEEP Relaxation & BIO-Structural DE-Compression
There are many fitness (SECC) focused yoga classes and systems available today throughout the world, and they are activating the 4-F system, the sympathetic system, far too much. Many, if not most, of these classes are not nearly as focused on truly Deep Relaxation & Lengthening with Structural DE-Compression of the Psycho-Neuro-Musculo- Fascial-Skeletal system, which would lead to much increased parasympathetic function and resulting health.
Yet deep relaxation and significant levels of decompression are quite necessary to achieve the kinds of health objectives described in this manual, and for what yoga is more widely known to be about. And yes, in case you’re wondering, this approach will, paradoxically, provide an excellent foundation on which to build your SECC capacities, too. But it is far better and healthier to build your parasympathetic foundation first before you build your sympathetic structure on top of too much tension & stress.Two Different Kinds of Flexibility & Relaxation
Many are misled by the fact that even within the fitness approach, they are, or might be, getting more overtly flexible. Unfortunately, there is a kind of flexibility gained by a more external, higher intensity approach to muscles (which tends to trigger the sympathetic, 4-F system), and a very different kind of flexibility gained by a more internal, lower-inten- sity approach to the psycho-neuro-musculo-fascial system (which tends to activate and restore the parasympathetic system). It is this second approach to flexibility we focus on in DSL Edgework and Let-Go Yoga.