As essential as it is for maintaining better movement, stretching doesn’t often make it into a daily routine.
Most people want to…they just don’t know which stretch to do and how long and which routine to follow. Sure, getting to a yoga class can be great, but that would involve getting out of the house and at least an hour for the class.
For all of those who feel lost on what to do, Flow Stretching is one of my favorite possibilities.
A friend of mine had this problem to the extreme. She had been doing yoga for years, until she found out she had cancer. With her strength fading and the pain increasing, she desperately needed to stretch. Only, she was too weak to do anything she had learned in yoga, much less make it out to a class.
She is, however, a woman of great resource. Abandoning everything she knew about specific stretches, she let her body lead the way, moving slowly, painfully, gracefully in whatever way felt the best. Steadily, her strength returned, and her movements became deeper and more flowing. She became more and more aware of what her body most needed, including a greater connection with her energy and her sensuality. Today (she believes in part to that greater awareness) her cancer is in remission.
I told that story to one of my clients who had an unfortunate encounter with West Nile and the resulting spinal meningitis. Even a year later, her hips and spine feel the effects, leaving her barely able to move some days. I encouraged her to try flow stretching, and she had similar results – including an increase in sensuality.
What a fabulous benefit! I imagine, the more you feel deeply into how your body wants to stretch, satisfying the need as you feel it, you can’t help but be more in tune with the sheer luxuriousness of the sensation.
I watch my dog stretch in the morning, full out, full body stretch, his eyes closed…and then he’s ready to play for hours (pausing to stretch whenever he feels like it). I can’t help but wonder if stretching not only helps keep our muscles limber but also keeps our mind sharp, our emotions positive, our energy high and our sensual experience more delicious.
And it doesn’t have to be for an hour at a time. Even a few minutes here and there is enough, much like Meditation in a New York Minute. I often Flow Stretch between appointments, in the shower with the water pounding on my back, and surreptitiously while walking the dog.
I do want to offer a couple rules of thumb while stretching – though as you stay in tune with your body, I don’t think you’ll have to worry nearly so much. These ideas are from the book Stretching by Bob Anderson (I highly recommend it).
- Don’t bounce and Don’t stretch to the point of pain.
- Start with an easy stretch – so you feel mild tension. Hold for 10-15 seconds. The tension should fade – if it doesn’t, then ease back.
- Once the tension fades, move slightly deeper into a developmental stretch, to mild tension again. Hold for 10-15 seconds and let it fade again. If the tension increases at any time, you’ve gone too far!
If you’re looking to develop a habit, try this in the morning to help you wake up. As it becomes more enjoyable, fit it into other moments, before sleep – anytime your body wants to luxuriate in the moment…