Episode 47: Why Stretching is Killing You


In this episode, you will learn:

  • What stretching is actually doing to your body
  • What muscle activation is and why it’s more effective than stretching
  • What AYAMA is and how it can help you become pain free

Episode 47: Why Stretching is Killing You

Katie Wrigley  0:00  

Welcome back to the Pain Changer podcast. This is episode 47. And I’m your host Katie Wrigley. This week, we’re going to take another turn into something that sounds completely non intuitive. And this is the idea that stretching is bad for you. What? Yep. That is when some experts are saying, today’s guest isn’t the first person who’s warned me about the dangers of stretching. So when he reached out about coming on my show, it was an easy yes. Stay tuned. That is coming right up.

Announcer  0:33  

Welcome to the Pain Changer podcast, where you will learn insider tips and tricks to help you improve your pain levels without the nearly daily trip to the doctor, or heavy pain medications. When you change your mind, you will change your experience with pain. Every week, the Pain Changer podcasts will teach you new ways to tune into your body in order to change your mind. If you had to scrape yourself off the bed like your undercooked pancake on an ungreased pan this morning. You’re in the right place. Now, here’s your host Katie Wrigley.

Katie Wrigley  1:07  

One of the most sought after teachers today Yogi Aaron is trailblazing new paths in the world of yoga. Known for his unorthodox perspectives on stretching and flexibility and how both cause more harm than good. His teachings aim to help as many people as possible live a pain free life so they can realize yoga’s true intentions. He is the creator of the revolutionary approach to yoga applied to yoga anatomy, plus muscle activation, a Yama and the online platform the yoga club, hosted the yoga podcast, stop stretching. Author of Autobiography of a naked yogi and his new book, Stop stretching a new yogic approach to master your body and live pain free and is the co-owner of Blue OSA yoga retreat and Spa in Costa Rica, where he leads yoga teacher training immersions a year round. I am going to have to put Costa Rica on my bucket list. Erin Yeah, Yogi Aaron’s sense of humor, contagious laugh and courageous, adventurous spirit makes him a standout and a favored leading yoga teacher today. Wow. Welcome to the Pain Changer podcast. Aaron, I’m so excited to have you here.

Yogi Aaron  2:20  

Thank you. That was such a beautiful introduction. Thank you. I appreciate it.

Katie Wrigley  2:26  

So can you tell the audience what led you to this path of yoga and this commitment to helping people live pain free and understand the dangers of flexibility? Because I hear the opposite all the time.

Yogi Aaron  2:40  

So that’s a loaded question. I mean, and feel free to jump in like and ask me, you know, stop me and ask me questions. As I’m talking, because I can talk a lot I can fill an hour, no problem. But I kindred spirits. I have always been passionate about helping people to manifest and live their life purpose. I grew up in sort of a very new agey home. And I quickly realized, like, I not only was passionate about living my own purpose, but I just felt like I just feel like sometimes people get very lost. And even in my last yoga teacher training immersion that I held at Blue, OSA, which was a month long, and there was another one that was two weeks before that. Everybody that came, like 90% of the people that came said that they were there because they didn’t feel at home in their body. And I just think, a very potent idea that so many people are walking around and just don’t feel at home, in their body, at home, in their life, at home, in their community, wherever. And there’s this disconnect. And so what I strive to do is connect people. I’ve always done that. However, along that journey of doing that I’ve experienced enormous pain in my own body. And they started yoga when I was about 18 years old, and I quickly hurt myself. What it took me 25 years to figure out was that when I say yoga sometimes I’m actually talking about stretching. So when I say yoga hurt me, I’m actually saying that stretching hurt me. Yoga is a fantastic practice. I really think it’s for everybody. And in that it can really empower people. You know, we look at so many of these great teachers, like people like Brian Tracy, Anthony Robbins, Tony Robbins, you know a lot of these kinds of people that have great messages all are pouring their knowledge from the yoga tradition. And so I’m not trying to, I’m not in no way disparaging them at all. I think they’re great teachers, I like to go right to the source. And what I teach is the source. And I’ve been very blessed to have those teachers who are really connected to what I sometimes referred to as the Himalayan tradition, that means, like, authentic tradition, but I’ve also hurt myself a lot. When I was 18. As I was mentioning, I really injured my back. And from then on, I had always dealt with like back pain that radiates into my glutes that radiate into my hips. By the time I was 30, it radiated into my knees, and I had to hang up my hiking shoes. And then I also developed searing neck pain. And when I say searing, like, I remember the first time it happened, it was like three months of going to bed with someone driving a knife into my shoulder blades. And so that’s about pain, like I know, I’ve experienced pain. And it took me 25 years to figure that out. And it wasn’t until I ended up in a surgeon’s office, telling me that I might need a spinal fusion was like a big wake up call. Shortly after that, one of my friends had been doing muscle activation technique and a T on me. So muscle activation technique for your listeners who may not know is just like it’s basically, it’s a technique where the therapist goes in, the specialist goes in and finds weak muscles, and then turns them on. And so they look at where there’s the most weakness in the body, and they get that strong. And so I didn’t, I kind of had this done to me before. And I always felt amazing. But when I ended up in the surgeon’s office, I spent eight days with my friend who does it. And there was something that he did differently, he kind of advanced his own knowledge at that point as well. So he was working on me not just as a specialist, but someone who had been practicing it for 15 years, he was at that point, it’s a system called bar x. But the point is like he went in, and he got so strong. And, and so I felt it strong, it was strong, it was testing strong. But then he went in, passively stretched it. And he went back and tested it and all this string was like somebody had turned a light off in my muscles. And there’s no other word I can really use. It was like one moment the muscle was on. And I had strength. And then he literally through this passive stretch, turned the muscle off, and all the strings had left. And I swore to myself at that moment, I would never manually adjust a student again, because what he was doing was manually adjusting me which we, you know, I just as a side note, like I’m horrified now that yoga teachers are allowed to touch students, and I don’t mean like, you know, touch touch, I mean, like, physically manipulate students, that’s a better word. Right? Because I saw with my own eyes, and I’ve actually repeated this a few times, and other people just as experiments, to when we passively move somebody into a stretch or deeper into a quote unquote, stretch, we shut off all of these muscles, we turn them all off, and they lose their ability to contract and contract on demand. So I went in, and I basically realized, at that moment, I had a moment of truth about many things. One of them was, I realized I didn’t know anything about the body. I had this big ego in thought, like I was an expert, somewhat of an expert in my yoga lane of the body. But I realized a) I had no clue about muscles. b) I had no clue about muscle function. And so I decided to start doing an MAT training myself. I didn’t know where it was going to take me. I didn’t know if I would do the whole thing. I just wanted to go in and, and get some knowledge and feed my heart and my soul with knowledge and just kind of look at the body from a different perspective, at the very least, and at the most be able to get some tools to start bringing into my yoga classes. And when I got into the MIT world, I realized like I didn’t know anything. It was very humbling. Very, very, very humbling. Oh, yeah. And then the second thing is that there was nobody in the MAT world, really that was translating this into yoga like how do we teach this from a yoga perspective? Nobody I mean, you know, I love the MAT people I say this with so much love, even though it sounds like a disparagement, but there are a bunch of meatheads, all these people, the fitness and lifting weights and like when I say meatheads, I mean that the most kindest, endearing way possible, because they’re really kind hearted, generous people. But they’re all like, into like lifting weights. And you know, like, Greg, the owner, Greg Roscoff, is like, he works on the football team, you know, and he works with these other heads. So they’re like, it’s, so nobody was translating this into yoga. And I realized, like, I wanted to bring a system that I could teach to my yoga teachers. And that’s how sort of the whole AYAMA thing came about. Applied yoga anatomy and muscle activation. AYAMA is the acronym for that. And both the beginning of 2020 to the end of 2021. So last year,

Yogi Aaron  11:13  

I had been sitting with myself and going this thing is really, like big. And I was just looking around and thinking like, I really want to just start having a conversation about this in the yoga world. Let’s start talking about that. And I didn’t really have a goal. I’ve had many people ask me, like, what’s your what’s your end goal, I said, my end goal is really just to start having conversations about this, get people to book. And that’s what led me to writing my book, stop stretching a new yogic approach to master your body and live pain free. And because I really want to just give a tool, at the very least to people who are looking for tools to either A, learn how to become pain free, because it’s not that hard, it’s actually very simple. It’s a little bit of a leap to get to simple but it is really simple. Number two, to provide a resource, at the very least to other yoga teachers, so that they can start to develop a better understanding of muscle function. There are no books out there that have comprehensive muscle function. I don’t say that with any ego, I say that with a lot of respect, there’s great books on anatomy that tells you where muscles are, but they don’t really tell you what muscles the muscles do. And so it’s a very academic way of looking at it. And the applied part of a Yama applied yoga anatomy, the applied part denotes this, this call to action that it’s no longer about like me, like reading about the body, it’s actually about me experiencing the body. So using that case like when Eric, my friend who did MHC on me, when he got me so strong, like I could feel it, I felt it contracting, I felt it working. And then I had this understanding that this is where my soul is. And all yoga teachers know about the psoas just as a side note is we need to stretch it out. You know, it needs to be stretched because it’s tight, and it’s constricted, and that tightness is causing our backs to not function properly. And that’s like bullshit Paki.

Katie Wrigley  13:35  

How you can swear, you can say bullshit.

Yogi Aaron  13:39  

It’s just, it’s not true. And I could get into that, but my point is like, I really want people to feel, yeah, this is when a muscle is strong. This is the muscle that we’re working. And then sometimes I’ll do things to my students, we’re okay, okay, we’re gonna shut this muscle off through a passive stretch, and then I’ll get them to shut it off. And they can feel that strength disappearing is actually one drill that I do, like, right on day one of my yoga teacher training, because I want them to kind of have direct experience. You know, direct experience is the pathway to freedom in yoga, and I want them to have direct experience of what it’s like to have muscles strong and weak. And then they can start to open up themselves to like, oh my god, this stuff really does work. And it makes sense and, and it just opens them up to wanting to learn more, and they find that my students to this day, and I’ve taught a few 100 of them. Now, this technique, all of them, not only are receptive and open and get it, but all of them start to usually by day six to day 10 of my teacher trainings immersions start to become pain free and for me down like the biggest driver so going back to what I first said, about why I do what I do, it’s like to help create an opportunity for people to start manifesting and living their life purpose. And I think that so many of us, and there’s some very high statistics out there, a lot of people are dealing with chronic pain, back pain is the number one disability in the world, a lot of people don’t know that. And so this, my goal is like, like, so much of our mental energy is going into managing that pain. And my goal is like, what if we got rid of the pain, let’s then have that energy freed up that mental space to start living our life purpose.

Katie Wrigley  15:47  

I love that. And it’s so true. And it’s hard to be on purpose when you’re in pain, because pain is really all consuming. And if you’re in pain long enough, you start to get traumatized by your own body, and you get into a state of perpetual fight or flight, and then everything starts getting sensitive. I love so much of what you said there. And I was giggling as you were talking about the deactivation and activation of the muscles. Because I was actually introduced to muscle activation technique, which I told you briefly before we got on to the show, and I worked with this, this guy was a friend of mine in Atlanta, same as Jason and Connie, he actually runs a gym. And much to your point, he comes from the baseball world, he comes from more of the bodybuilding world, great guy, one of the best guys who truly cares about people, he’s actually created this thing called the kinesthetic arm that I think is probably built off of his knowledge from MIT. And he was almost in the big leagues himself and had to stop because of an injury. So it comes out of this passion. And I’ve seen consistently in the wellness space, when someone’s coming from a place of passion, they’re putting good shit out into the world. But he did the same thing to me. And so he was finally excited. I had worked with him before I left town for a while. And then before I started engaged with him again, I’d looked him up and I’m like, oh, I want to start working out with you. Again, I’ve kind of been out of practice. And I just crashed in the drop zone. So I hurt my back. And so I don’t know that I’m ready yet. And he’s like, just come in, just come in, like, this is going to help you and I’m like, how is muscle activation technique gonna help me me he’s like, just just come in, like, okay, and so I came in and I’m thinking, you know, he’s just going to work on me, I’m not gonna be able to work out yet I was in so much pain. And he tweaks a couple things. And he’s telling me about how dangerous stretching can be. And he does that same little trick he likes to push the muscle one way. And he’s like, now try it. I had no strength. Try to get any activators to try it again. I’m like, what the hell did you just do? And so he put on me a bunch of other things and he had me stand up. And he’s like, how do you feel like, oh, my God, like, I feel so much better. What did you do? He is like I activated your muscles so they’re working properly? Yeah. And it’s like, and then and when you think about the genius of that, when you have people in pain, especially back pain, you have something that is structural or off, your muscles are gonna start to compensate for them. So they’re working, but they’re not working effectively. So MAT is this beautiful, almost magical way of putting the strength into your body in the correct way to make your body work efficiently. And it is mind blowing what I like, I can’t believe that more people in the world aren’t doing it because it’s like it’s like Jedi body tricks. You know, it’s just, it’s amazing what you can do with that.

Yogi Aaron  18:42  

Yeah, I mean, I was working yesterday on one of my workers, writers, and she’s visiting me. And I was working on her multifidus and QL. And I was testing on and she was like, yeah, I could just see her get embarrassed a little bit everybody does. By like, how little how no strength they have like, there’s just nothing there. And then I go in and do what did you call it, Jedi body tricks? Yeah, and Jedi mind tricks. Like but then the muscle is solid. It’s like a brick wall. And to go from like nothing to a brick wall and then, and then I tested her longissimus. And I did one of my favorite poses, which I always tell yoga teachers, especially those that do my training. If you don’t do any pose in your yoga class, make sure you do this one like this one shouldn’t be the standard for every class and it’s my number one pose I tell everybody to do. They don’t listen to me. But it’s shallow Bosna in Sanskrit or in English Superman pose. Okay. So you lie on your stomach and you lift your leg and your chest up as high as you can. You really want to try to lift your legs up, because that’s the insertion of the muscle. So you lift your legs up, and it contracts that lower back muscle called the longissimus. Yes, And just by the way, I just as a side note, I think it’s worthwhile just saying this, because if you’re any of your listeners or yoga people, I’m going to tell you something like what shocked me and I say this from personal experience, too, that if you ask yoga teachers will always say like, we have to open up the yes, word, open up the back in the back muscles. And then if you turn it on and say to them, tell me one back muscle, like what is the one name of one back muscle? You would be hard pressed for them to name one? Yeah, you know, and so let alone the longissimus. So I’m on a press campaign to educate people about the longevity of this, because it’s actually the key stabilizer extensor in the back. And so I tested my, my worker writer, her longissimus. Of course it does, week, I said okay Amy, like come on to your stomach, let’s do Superman, she’s done it several times before with Superman. And she went again, from like, nothing. And then I tested it, it was like rock solid, like it was not moving. It was completely contracting properly and contracting on demand. And I think that’s something a lot of people really need to understand, or I want to try to get people to understand, it’s not a matter of the muscle being weak, per se. It’s just the communication system between the muscle and the central nervous system. That’s not strong. And so that has become weak. So you can kind of think about it like a telephone line between the brain and your muscles. Well, people know that if telephone lines aren’t maintained, the communion, literally the communication system, becomes impaired. And we started to get really scratchy. And so all we’re doing from a muscle activation perspective is we’re not necessarily trying to strengthen the muscle, all we’re doing is just building up that neuro muscular connection. But I find and have found consistently that if that muscle is working properly, then it actually starts when the body uses it and then as the muscle grows, the muscle stays strong, and gets stronger. So if you like to walk a lot, and you don’t have glutes that are working, well then your body, as you just said earlier, is recruiting other muscles to do the job of walking. But if we get the glutes working before we walk, then not only is the body using the glutes, but then the glutes are getting exercised properly. And so therefore we’re getting stronger.

Katie Wrigley  23:02  

That makes a lot of sense, especially that neuromuscular connection. I remember asking the MIT guys when I was, this was when I was disabled, I was still going down to help try to loosen things up in my body and start to get strength again. And I was just so fed up at that point that I was not in a good state of mind. And like was so tired of everybody telling me to move because it was the last thing that I wanted to do because everything hurt so fucking bad when I moved I didn’t want to, but I understood that I needed to but I was just getting really tired of everybody telling me I needed to move and so I’m finally like, how is movement going to help my nerve pain? Yeah, and he was like, and he answered very carefully he’s like, there’s a lot of science behind it. But basically it’s the blood flow going through there is actually going to be lubricating the nerves and so he’s like, okay with the string training and I don’t remember exactly what it was but when you get your heart rate up, then the blood flow is going through the nerves and it’s smooth them out and we’ve got 45 miles of nerves in our body and I like to say that mine used to have some serious road damage she still has a little bit there’s like a pothole here or there where the signals still a little bit off but it doesn’t bother me so much anymore. I can just tell that the nerves work a little differently and I’ve I’ve pounded myself into the ground skydiving so and you know kind of earned it but in in I think it was an eye maybe you can supply the answer on the with the strength training does to help with nerves and the nervous system as well because I’m blanking on that science right now. But once he said that, I’m like, oh, yeah, and I think you were just touching on that with a neuromuscular connection.

Yogi Aaron  24:42  

Um, the so there’s a few things to unpack. But um you know, it’s one of the questions we have to constantly first of all, let me back up. So moving is really important and this became very clear to me about four years ago, I really hurt my neck. So I’ve dealt with chronic neck pain. But I had an issue where about four years ago, it really seized up on me, my neck. And then again, I was dealing with that, you know, pain, that knife pain. And there is I can tell you exactly why it got really bad, which is a whole other story. But the point is, I got it, it forced me to really examine the neck because I haven’t had to really address that part of my body from an MIT perspective. And from a quote unquote, PT perspective PT, physical therapy. Yeah. And when I was talking to Eric, and one of the comments that Eric made was, was a couple of things. But one, I don’t know where this came from. But a few years ago, a few years, 10,20, 30 years ago, for some reason in the fitness world, they said, stop extending your neck. And it was one of the most stupidest things that ever came out, because the neck is supposed to extend. And what’s happened is that a lot of us because we’re on our computers, were ending up with these turtlenecks, not like the sweater, but like you’re sticking your head out all the time. Yeah, the tech neck, they call it. Constantly inflection and what ends up happening there is like all these extensor muscles are actually engaging to hold the neck there, which is not their job, they should not be engaging like that. So they’re starting to become tonic, they’re entering into a tonic state of being in a lengthened state, but but contracting, which is not good. And then also our neck starts to become deformed, literally. And you can see that in older people. As they get older, the way that they’re they start to hunched over, and then their neck sticks out. So we start to become physiologically deformed at a level of bone, and then also our neck flexors aren’t working. So one of the things that I started to build right away into my PT routine, and it was painful at first, was moving the neck. And one of the comments that Eric made to me, which really kind of stuck with me, it was kind of cute is we forgot how to look at the stars. And he left in one of the conversations he said, Aaron, it’s ridiculous that we don’t like to look up, how do you think that we looked at the stars, you know, back right? Then and, and it was kind of like, that was like a poignant moment for me, like realizing like, we have forgotten how to stand tall. And we’ve forgotten how to extend our backs. And even we can see the same thing in the lumbar spine like, like, don’t don’t, you know, exacerbate that lumbar curve. Well, how else are you supposed to work those muscles and get those muscles stronger. So there’s a lot of like, not just in the yoga world, but even in the definitely in the fitness world. And even in the medical world like that, like I always tell people to do my training. And I’m very careful in how I word it. But I said, when you leave this training, you will know more about muscle function than most doctors that you go to. Because they’re not trained in muscle function there. That’s not their brain, and, and even a lot of physical therapists are. But what we’re wanting to do from an MAT perspective of muscle muscle activation perspective, is start to reconnect the brain to these key muscle groups. And if it is not like that when you brought up like strength training, strength training, again, one of the questions that Greg Roscoff, the owner of MAT often says, which I find a very interesting statement is is something good? Is this going to be good for me? Or is this going to be bad for me? So yes, we do want to move? Yes, we do want to get the muscles working. But sometimes we also need to adopt one of the principles of the Yamuna: Less is more. And so have somebody in your case, in my case, with chronic pain, like when I’m doing my neck exercise, I don’t want to be like, okay, let’s see how far I could bring my neck back. It’s like moving intelligently. But still doing the movements and accepting. This is not a two day program or a three day or seven day. This is like for the rest of my life program. And so what I need to do is do it consistently. I also need to do it slowly. And so like one of the things that you see a lot right now in the New York Time’s just literally like January 7th, or something like that 2023 did an article on, it’s actually not good to stretch before your workout and vote the solution was these dynamic movements. And so you see people in the gym holding like a bar, and then literally swinging their leg as fast as they can back and forth, that’s not going to help you that’s going to do buttvuts or the neuro muscular system, it’s going to get some blood flowing, which is great, you know, good on you. But as far as getting the muscles to engage properly, and so the way that we do that, do the leg swinging, but move it really slowly. So that takes you, you know, five seconds to move the leg back even 10 seconds, and it takes you another 10 seconds to move the leg forward. Now we’re starting to move and access the slow twitch fibers to be more accurate, and starting to skip them to become more easily stimulated, so that they improve that ability to contract and contract on demand.

Katie Wrigley  31:15  

That makes a lot of sense. And I’m a huge advocate of moving now. That’s one of the first things I tell any of my clients, when they’re coming in with me is like, are you doing anything to move like, no, I hurt to match, like, okay, that’s one of the first things we’re gonna want to change. I get it. But you’re right, like, and I’ve noticed now like if I have a day where I just want to like binge on Netflix or something, I don’t move much. I’m like, oh, my body kind of hurts. And much to your point about that muscle anatomy. Like even with all the back pain I’ve gone through I’ve got, you know, with what I was diagnosed with, which is not what I think about actively at all. But my entire lumbar spine is bulging, and so is my sacrum and there’s scoliosis in between my fists, that joint and my L five is gone. I think that’s when I started going to MIT with Jason was during that time from that crash, which I I’m pretty sure that’s when I fractured my alfalfa joint, just just putting things together in hindsight. But the only muscle that I recognized that you said of those three was the QL, because that’s the one that always pulls on me. That’s the one that’s trying to pull my spine back in alignment again. And so it gets super sore. But the I want to call it a longer burger, even though that’s a basket that’s not a muscle. The other two you mentioned never heard of them. But much to you but it doesn’t matter. It matters that I know what body parts are functioning. But you said something there that I’ve only heard from someone else and MAT and that’s it’s it’s slowly nudging or tapping on the limit of movement, right? And so you’re not going I give up my head all the way back and like to do a backbend. Like you’re not doing that until you look at the stars, you’re trying an inch or so at a time. And so what the other MIT guy Joe Purcell, Joel Purcell had said in Colorado, because my back was really bad when I was out there. And he’s like, what can’t you do? I’m like, oh, I can’t arch my back at all. And he’s like, you know what that means? I’m like, what? Like, that’s the one thing you need to do the most I just looked at him, like, back really, he’s like, really, that’s gonna be that I’m like, okay, and so like, and he’d have me working that he was like, I’m not even have you try the Superman. I just want you to lay on your stomach. I want you to try one leg at a time. And then I want you to try both legs. And that’s it. And just keep trying. And now I can do a Superman again. But like it would be when I first tried it was so excruciating, because the muscles weren’t used to working and I still had a lot of active damage and inflammation in there that had resolved yet. But he was right and I never lost that advice that he said. It’s like the one thing you don’t want to do is probably the thing that’s gonna benefit your body the most to start doing again. It’s like that of course. Of course that’s the way it is.

Announcer  34:18  

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Yogi Aaron  35:03  

I just want to comment on that Superman analogy, that pose analogy, because there was a moment when I did really hurt my back, a couple of years back, I was going on vacation, and I wanted to go to the gym. And I hadn’t been working out. So I had this kind of weekend warrior mentality. And I thought, I’m gonna get my Mediterranean body in like 20 minutes kind of, you know, really stupid. I mean, I was just stupid. But in the process, I really messed my back up. So I ended up going on vacation with a really bad back, and it was going to Greece. And so I had to do my muscle activations. And so I did Superman, of course, my back was inflamed. The point I’m trying to get to, though, is like, what I noticed right away was even like lifting my leg and my chest, my legs and my chest off of the floor. Like, I would say, like an eighth of an inch, all of a sudden, the brain starts to connect to that longissimus muscle. And now once it starts getting connected, it goes, Okay, now I can use this guy for support, the back is supported, and the inflammation started disappearing. And I felt it instantaneously, it was so cool. And of course, you know, my back ends it takes a little while for my back to heel. But it does happen very quickly, that I could, I could, there was a noticeable difference in the way that I felt before and which was like hunched over, and you know, pain. And then after doing Superman and being able to stand up and go, I’m not hunching over anymore, because those back extensors were pulling my spine erect. And yeah, and listen, I had stability or some stability, of course, the threshold of the muscle was very low. So I couldn’t like go out and play a football game. But you know, I had some ability to go out and be able to walk around, you know, the city for an hour or two. And so it’s just like, it’s just sometimes we just need to kind of like back off, but also paying attention to what is disabling us, like, my mother, is 76 now is doing all of these exercises, and she goes, Oh, my God, I’m feeling better. And then she’s like, and then I get a message from her at the end of the day, or the next morning, oh, my body is really sore. And I don’t know if these things are working. What did you do the day before? Well, you know, I spent six hours in the garden.

Katie Wrigley  37:45  

Yeah, yeah.

Yogi Aaron  37:49  

Or, you know, I went to the yoga house, and they had this kind of, like, general meeting. One day, she left this message with me. And they had a general meeting, and I just sat on the floor for two hours. And now my back and my whole body’s in pain, it’s like, because your thresholds, your threshold of your muscles is really low. And what we need to do is progressively get them stronger. And that takes time. It’s like, again, that neuromuscular connection, which has been compromised, you know, due to trauma overuse.

Katie Wrigley  38:22  

Absolutely. And then the other component in there, you know, I don’t know how much you’ve touched on this in your work, you clearly understand the mind body connection. But what I’ve seen through my own experience, and through those in clients, the last signal that the subconscious is going to put down as the pain sickle. Like for people who have like all body or really long term chronic pain, they’re going to notice their energy going up. First, they’re going to notice their mood improving, they’re going to notice more clarity in their thoughts, they’re not going to notice that the pain has been ebbing, part of it is because the baseline is changing. So slowly, like you know, to give a different, less positive example, like social media is changing at a pace, we don’t notice you, when you are changing your baseline, it’s going at a pace you don’t notice. And so that also gives your brain an opportunity to start to play tricks with you. But you said something really powerful towards the beginning of this interview, that in six to 10 days people are reporting less pain and that is a tremendously massive income. I’m not even on that income, outcome can even get the words that is a massive outcome in a short period of time, doing some simple steps. So instead of stretching when someone’s like, oh, I need to stretch this. What is their body actually asking for at that moment? What is the better movement to do? To answer that body’s plea for a stretch or that’s what we’re perceiving it to be is stretch me but what is our body actually asking for in that moment, Aaron?

Yogi Aaron  39:58  

So I know our time is quickly running out. So I’m going to try and give the quick explanation that first of all, stretching does feel good. I mean, we just have to say it feels good to stretch. It does. The number one pose I tell people not to do is child’s pose. But it does feel good to drop into a child’s pose. The problem is that we’re not giving our bodies what it wants, and what, you know, one of the things that we say a lot in yoga is like, listen to your body. But listen, people don’t know what they can listen to their body, but they don’t know the language of the body. It’s like, if I was listening to somebody in Japanese, I have no clue they could be talking crap about me. And I think that there’s so you know, what I try to do is teach people about the language of the body, but one of the languages of the body talks to us through pain, and muscle tightness, and pain. It’s like the check engine light of the body going off saying something is wrong. And what’s usually wrong. And I’m not going to say this as an absolute truism, but it’s definitely true most of the time. What’s probably going on is that there’s instability in the neuromuscular system, meaning that a group of muscles aren’t doing their job and it’s showing up as pain. One example of that is pain in your lower back. So you have a herniated disc, you and I both have herniated discs. And so that disc herniation is getting exacerbated as pressing into the nerves or whatever, because the muscles around the joint is not supporting the joints of the spine properly, could also be in the hips. So there’s muscles that aren’t working. And so once we deal with that, those muscles when we get them stronger, most of the time, that pain will just disappear really fast, like lightning fast sometimes. In other cases, it can take like with me, there was a situation just a week ago, where it was like my knee was really sore one day. It was because I was sitting cross legged for four hours. And the next day, I woke up with pain, but I did the series of muscle activations didn’t, it got less, but then by the next morning, it was completely gone. And so that was kind of interesting. To kind of like look at that. So I’m sorry, what was the question? Again, I lost my train of thought.

Katie Wrigley  42:29  

I kind of did you I was

Yogi Aaron  42:30  

Oh, muscles are tight, though, because there is weakness in the body. And so the body what it does, when it senses instability, when it senses weakness, it sends out like this amber alert in the body, tighten up, tighten up, tighten up. So like a good example of that is if you’re walking on ice, you know, you step out on ice, you immediately freeze up, right? So it’s a physiological response, the absolute wrong thing to do is to stretch. Because at the very fundamental level, you’re violating your body’s own protective mechanism, so what we need to do is address the instability. So what I would say to people, like if you’re feeling tight, like for example, you often hear people say, Oh, my God, I need to you know, release my, my packs, my pecs are so tight, you hear this consistently. And if the if it’s indeed true, and I don’t necessarily believe that it’s true, most of the time, I think it’s like people just saying that because it’s something that people say, but if you do feel like are true, sorry, tightening up, then it dress the back muscles, get the trapezius muscle working, get the, the the triceps working, get the rhomboids working, and all of a sudden, now these these muscles are contracting. And guess what now you have space in your chest. So like with me, I deal all the time with chronic hamstrings and abuse my neuromuscular connections between my brain and my hamstring and my hip flexors, too. No, no. And, but, so, like one of the things I noticed it was actually on Friday last week, and I was walking around getting ready to go somewhere and I noticed my hamstring was tightening up to the point of cramping. So I decided, okay, I’ve got four minutes, I got onto my floor. I literally just dropped out. And I spent four minutes doing some muscle activations for the four quads. Guess what stood up, tightness gone immediately loud and not only did the tightness disappear, but this is like the thing that people are obsessed about is range of motion. Not only does the tightness disappear, the range of motion improves, so I could actually bend over and pick up my stuff that I was trying to pack up, I got, but I’ve also got stability, meaning that I can bend over and the muscles are shortening in a way that’s supporting my body. Whereas before, if I just try to stretch the hamstring now I’ve got range of motion, but I have no accountability, I have no support in that range of motion. So I’d very much like people to sometimes ask me, you know, is there any time to stretch? And I think like, maybe, .0001% of the time. It’s not an exception. People sometimes hear that go, oh, there is an exception. But so no, just stop stretching.

Katie Wrigley  45:39  

No. And I love how you broke that down. You know, and, and I hope, I hope to those listening or hearing like, you did a couple of quick exercises, when your back was out, when you went to Greece, and you were able to walk for one to two hours, if anybody has experienced back pain at all, you know, walking is one of the hardest things to do when your back is out. It is unbelievably difficult to lift that foot off the ground and move it forward without like, there’s been times I’ve walked around and bad back days. And I found like, oh, oh, like because every step hurts. So that’s a beautiful gift. And what took you what, 5-10 minutes to do that?

Yogi Aaron  46:19  

Yeah, about 10 minutes, I always say just commit to doing 10 minutes of muscle activation that day will change your life. Exponentially.

Katie Wrigley  46:29  

Yeah, and the other thing and that’s so easy, that’s 10 minutes. Like I tell people the same with cognitive movement, like a five minute session in the morning, like, you know, 15, you do 10 minutes of muscle activation, five minutes of cognitive activity, your brains activated, your muscles are activated, you’re good to go. The other thing that you said that was really important in here is though, if we’re feeling tightness, so like if I’m feeling, you know, some tightness in my back, I can focus on my abs and activate my abs to support them because it’s probably the opposing muscle that isn’t working correctly, that’s making this other ones sore. So you just start to look for the opposite, which is a technique. You know, what we actually talk about in pain management sometimes is like, Okay, if you have a sharp pain, think about softness, think about the opposite. So it’s kind of the same thing. Okay, if my back hurts, what can I do with my abs? To take the load off my back? And if my pecs hurt, what can I do with my shoulders? To take the load off my shoulder? So I guess the same would be if your trapezius, if your neck and shoulder muscles are bothering you? What can you strengthen in your chest to help your shoulders out?

Yogi Aaron  47:39  

Absolutely, I mean, a big contributor to neck pain is weak paths. And your listener should not go running out and go okay, how much weight can I bench press like that’s actually that was weak pecs, you’re just gonna get weaker and really hurt yourself. So what you want to do is you want to find ways to isometrically contract the packs and do that as a muscle activation technique. But you know, between you know, there’s three muscles that really support the neck that don’t get enough press and one of them is the pecs serratus anterior and the trapezius and so those are my big three to go to and it’s amazing like as soon as you get that working like people just oh my god I’m more erect and my my neck feels freer.

Katie Wrigley  48:34  

Nice I think everybody likes to be more erect in one way or another sorry I couldn’t resist so I would love is there anything that you can leave any listeners with today something that they would be able to do at home and where can they find you Aaron to continue this conversation this is I wish I didn’t have a hard stop I could keep talking to you this is your energy is great. Even though you guys are just listening to the audio, not the video. He’s got a big smile on his face. You’ve heard of a contagious laugh. So where can they find you Aaron and what can they do with muscle activation technique on their own?

Yogi Aaron  49:08  

So the first place first thing that your people should do is go to Amazon and get my book Stop stretching. Though also my podcast is out there. It’s also called Stop stretching. It’s an eight part series. It’s kind of like a storytelling series. And the book is such a great breakdown. It’s again educational but fun and invites you to bring it as part of an experience not just like something to read on Sundays or at nighttime but actually to participate with what you’re doing your reading so it’s more experiential. The second place to go is on my website yogiaaron.com and there are people. It’s a portal into my YouTube channel. I have a 15 day dare to be pain free challenge, I have another seven day thing, there’s a lot of free things on my website. So it’s just, there’s just a portal to night, you know, it’s just talking about the neck, I have a seven day, neck series on YouTube on my YouTube channel as well, that takes people through seven days of How to Become pain free in their neck. So there’s a lot of just different things. So just go to my website, yogiaaron.com, get plugged in, and, and get activated.

Katie Wrigley  50:34  

Awesome, I would now make sure all of those links are in the show notes to your podcast, to your book, and also to your website. Is there any last word that you want to leave the listeners with today or and before we wrap up?

Yogi Aaron  50:47  

I could say stop stretching and start activating. But you know, it’s like, I really believe that all of us deserve to live our best life, you know, the creator endowed us with all of that what we need to live our best life. And we just need to start using those tools. And, what I find more than anything is once we start using these tools and feeling better, as you kind of denoted earlier that it’s like, you know, the light of awareness starts to turn on within us. And we start to see life differently as we feel differently in life. And I just, you know, no matter how much pain you’re in, there are solutions. and the solution is not necessarily a scalpel underneath the doctor’s hands. So please use the resources because they work. I see it all the time and you deserve it. You are deserving of it.

Katie Wrigley  51:46  

I love that that is a beautiful message to end on. Thank you so much for joining me today Aaron, this has been such a pleasure to get to know you a little bit.

Yogi Aaron  51:56  

Thank you, Katie, appreciate you inviting me on the show.

Katie Wrigley  52:00  

And thank you as always for joining me today, my listener. I appreciate you so much. I hope you’ll join me again next week when I’m going to change things up again. Starting next week. For the next several weeks I’m going to be featuring podcasts where I’ve been the guest sharing more of my story and what it’s taught me and how you can benefit from what I’ve learned without having to experience or pay for it yourself. The first episode is hearing more in depth about my journey out of pain with Bill McKenna and Liz Larson of the Cognomovement team. So I hope you will come back to hear more about it and until then, please never forget that chronic doesn’t have to mean permanent. 

Katie Wrigley  52:36  

We are a brand new podcast. We appreciate every review we get, especially the five stars. Please help us share this podcast and spread the word that you can accept the diagnosis without accepting the prognosis. You can do this by subscribing and leaving your own five star review to let us know what you like and what you want to hear more of. Thank you so much for listening today. And as always, remember that chronic doesn’t have to mean permanent.

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