Every time we move our limbs some parts of our body stretch, others contract. These outcomes accompany all movement we make. What we often think of as stretching however (that feeling of tautness being pulled like a band), is actually a part of our body’s musculature loaded or stressed at a range that is not shared with the rest of the body. If we do a quick ‘scan’ of the body at the moment we feel a stretch we may notice tension or ‘holding’ in other areas of the body. This is because what is not integrated into the body is resisted. In other words what we might call a stretch is a suspended range of movement that is beyond the rest of the body’s capacity to relax and share, thus causing tension and resistance around joints apparently unrelated to the stretching area.
If we think of the connective tissue in our body as a net that runs from our feet to our heads we may notice that a movement in one area will invariably have a response in other areas; in the same way as when we pull a net the whole thing moves together. In other words there is no such thing as an isolated movement in our bodies; no matter how small an action the whole body is affected simultaneously.
We can bring this knowledge to bear when we stretch by always allowing our flexibility to equal our movability. A simple way to do this when stretching is by noticing whether accompanying the stretch tension has been created anywhere else in the body. If we are unable to release these tensions and allow relaxed movement to occur then the stretch is beyond our range at that time. If we instead change our focus from increasing flexibility to gently expanding range of motion we can begin to notice the interdependence of movement, effort and relaxation in our body and can allow the act of stretching to become a process of negotiating and integrating our body’s ever changing responses to gravity, tension and the movement of our breathing. If we work in this way we might barely feel a stretch but our range of available movement increases without effort. We may notice lengthening or release in the stretched area with an accompanying feeling of relaxation and ease through the whole body. After working in this way the body is less likely to feel the tightness that comes from having stretched, instead a noticeable difference in the ease of motion and an awareness of new ranges of movement in everyday life.
If you are interested in finding out how these ideas can work in practice contact Melbourne City Pilates on (03) 9939 6464
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