The Power of Stretching by Margaret Dunn
As a new addition to the West St Wellbeing team, I thought you might like to know a bit more about what I actually do in my classes.
Personally, just like a contented cat, I love to stretch. So, what better topic for my first blog than:
Stretching – what does it do, & how can it help?
Over time, we move more in some ways, & not much at all in others. For example, are you a desk sitter, or a driver, confining movement around a concave spine for long periods? Perhaps you carry children or shopping regularly, all the time moving the shoulders, hips, & neck in particular ways? Or has getting older changed your usual posture, as it often does, meaning that your neck, spine & shoulders have become stiff & set in their ways?
Recently, I read an article by Kit Laughlin, an Australian author & founder of Stretch Therapy. Kit writes that;
‘Stretching provides a series of graded solutions to an infinite number of movement challenges’
For instance, you might want to try the splits, so a stretch program for the hips will help get you to the starting point for safely attempting the splits. More often, though, the goal is simpler such as, ‘I want to be able to do up back buttons’, or ‘I want to be able to do up my shoes’, or ‘I want to get rid of stiffness in my neck’; everyone will have their own personal activity as a goal.
Kit explains that each person will need the basic movement tools that allow the body to acquire the necessary range of new movement. Fortunately, we have a finite number of moving body parts, so every movement involves some or all of the same joints & muscles but in different ways. In other words, learning to stretch will provide a finite number of tools for an infinite number of moves!
But we also might have developed restrictions or limitations in movement; did you know that we all all very flexible when unconscious, so where did these movement limitations & restrictions come from? Some might have come about through injury but more commonly they result from the patterns of movement that we have developed over time.
Once a restriction is removed the body can be positioned … optimally and then new movement patterns and whatever strength is required to support these can be learned safely and efficiently.
Another critical tool learned in stretching, Kit says, ‘is the development of the capacity to feel precisely what’s happening in the body and which parts of the body are involved in whatever one is doing.’
It is the development of this awareness that is crucial to becoming more flexible.
As Kit explains; ‘Flexibility cannot be achieved by force or by intensity’
Effort is still needed, but the effort works on the body & the mind’s re-learning of movement ranges & patterns & not simply on any imposed activity. This takes practice & time.
So in my classes you will often be asked, “What does that feel like; where do you feel it; and how can you relax further into it?” Answering these questions gets you well on the way to freer, more mindful movement.
I look forward to meeting you sometime soon.
Margaret teaches stretching as part of her ‘Mindful Movement’ in the studio of West Street Wellbeing.
- Mondays 10am & 6pm and Earlybirds classes Mondays 6:30am (Classes run for 1 hour)
To book a session with Margaret, please use the link below, or you can contact: