I have introduced the art of stretching before.
(In the not-so-recent past!)
But I’ve never been able to deep-dive into any meaningful stretching routine. It’s partly because of impatience and also because of an ill-advised structure to work from.
Or should I say the lack of an educated, experienced (both personal and inter-personal) structure with the right kind of community all walking along a similar path.
The path is initially a physical one.
Usually trying or wanting to increase range of motion.
One inevitably discovers that our experience is not dualistic like that. Mental & emotional factors can’t be separated from our ability to extend ourselves physically.
It might just be frustration about lack of progress.
That also might extend to comparing said lack of progress with others who are becoming seemingly rubber people.
Or it might just be plain fear.
The in-the-moment experience of stretching our muscles & stretching our minds can expose a lot of… well, shit we have covered up.
Or not if you’re lucky.
Eventually though, the idea of relaxation creeps its way into our field of experience.
That’s another spectrum entirely.
The range of motion a person has with their body & limbs is quite separate to the suppleness of their muscles.
A flexible person can have a tense body.
A relatively inflexible person can have soft muscles.
I can’t say I have absolutely soft muscles. But they are universally much softer and more relaxed than what they were.
While living & training in Hong Kong, one of my Wing Chun brothers, David Rossi, put me onto a stretching guy called, Kit Laughlin.
I had mentioned to David that I’ve always had tight hamstring muscles. And whenever I had tried to stretch them using PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular faciliation) or contract-relax stretching, I would injure them ever so slightly.
It was like tiny muscle fibers in the hamstring broke down. It would self-regulate after about 5 days and I’d be right back where I started.
So on multiple occasions during adulthood I began trying to increase my range of motion via stretching and within 2-3 weeks would let it go.
I watched many videos of Kit Laughlin. The one that started letting me feel my hamstrings in a stretch without the inevitable, impending and pointless 5-day recovery period, was this instructional.
As well stumbling upon Dr. Eric Goodman’s Foundation Training, specifically, the Founder exercise which helped me to connect the awareness I have of my upper & lower body – specifically when I’m doing any physical movement/exercise.
The above video where Kit Laughlin is demonstrating the lunge hamstring stretch is what convinced me (my body?) that I could actually increase my range of motion.
But I didn’t!
It could have just been laziness (although I’ve spent considerable time & energy on non-lazy activities for a long time).
I think it’s more about the body wanting to avoid the thing it needs the most.
The idea of stretching often becomes de-glorified when you’re in the middle of an uncomfortable stretch. All you want to do is take your body out of the position!
As soon as you come out, the discomfort subsides.
Stretching is a very real, in-the-moment activity.
It has to be.
Many people like it for this reason. Yet many people still avoid the one or two stretching positions that are most difficult – that they need to practice – because it’s uncomfortable.
If you can identify the tightest spots in your body that need stretching and you have accepted that that’s what you need to practice, then you’ve overcome a huge hurdle.
That’s where I’m at.
Even if you don’t find my experience that interesting or intriguing (either because I’ve only just started or for any other reason!), there is a wealth of knowledge there from Kit, Olivia Allnut and so many other experienced practitioners.