page will answer questions that frequently get asked...
Do you stretch "Cold"? A
common question posed of me is, "Should I warm up my muscles
by running, skipping rope, etc., before I stretch? Won't I pull
a muscle if I don't warm up? Do I stretch COLD?" Yes, I do.
And always have.
I have found through personal experience that if you stretch when
you are cold, you will see how tight you really are. If you warm
up first, your muscles fill with blood, and it is easier to stretch.
There is no argument to that. You will probably stretch farther
and get deeper into your postures when you are already sweating.
However, if you can get your muscles to lengthen without "warming"
them up, your gains in stretch will be more permanent. Your flexibility
will not be dependent upon breaking a
When you stretch when you are "cold", it takes longer
to stretch. It will probably hurt more, but not necessarily. The
"hurt" is the cold muscle struggling to lengthen. If you
go slowly, as I STRONGLY suggest, the hurt goes
away. You must be patient. Do not bounce, or throw yourself into
the position. The action of stretching will warm you up anyway,
so the stretches you work on later in your routine will come easier
than the first ones. You still won't be as warm as if you skipped
rope or ran around the block, but the end of your routine will be
easier than the beginning.
In life, I need my body ready without having to prepare first. But
it takes time and effort to get it that way.
Why stretching feels good...
First, a travel backwards
through time, please bear with me... Once upon a time, we lived
in caves, hunted wild animals, spent time digging up roots and berries,
and weathered extreme temperatures. Life was tough, and we dealt
with it successfully. We were only motivated to really "tense"
up, when there was a real threat: a dangerous animal was near, or
there was an impending attack from another tribe.
So, our muscles served us well to keep us fed and warm and safe,
and were only "motivated" to tense to extreme measures
under a very REAL threat. Our bodies were in good shape from all
the work we did just to survive.
Flash forward to today: We don't have to hunt or dig for food, we
go to the supermarket. Our caves are lush and warm, with all the
comforts you could ever need. Life is much easier, physically, and
for the most part, we deal with it successfully. However, where
we used to tense up against real threats, now we tense up against
perceived threats. There are no tigers and bears, and in most of
the world, we are relatively safe in our environment. When there
was the threat of a tiger, we would tense, the tiger would walk
away, we would relax. Now, if there is the threat of a paperwork
deadline or a traffic jam, we tense, but we don't relax!!
This is why we need to stretch. Hands are tight from using keyboards,
backs are sore from sitting in cars, and the one activity that does
the opposite to those activities is STRETCHING.
If you get into a regular routine of stretching, you are undoing
one of the stresses of modern life: tight muscles as a result of
the condition we all live in.
The mindbody connection and stretching.....
My Teacher often spoke of the Mindbody connection.
In fact, he coined the phrase as one word, because the two are interconnected.
Let's look at that.
When you feel happy, you feel it in your body. Your chair does not
feel your happiness, your pillow does not feel your happiness, your
body does. When you feel joy, you feel it in your body. Your car
does not feel your joy. Your kitchen does not feel your joy, your
When you feel angry, you feel it in your body. Your couch does not
feel your anger, your computer does not feel your anger, your body
feels your anger. When you feel sad, your table does not feel your
sadness, your fork does not feel your sadness, your body feels your
sadness. So, what we feel in our emotional body, we experience
in our physical body. That's the mindbody connection
related to our emotions and our physical being.
Now, the feelings of happiness, joy, love, satisfaction, are positive
emotions, and the body does not tighten up to deal with them. We
tend to just experience them for what they are. Positive emotions
are light and feel good, so we seek to feel them again and again.
However, the feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, fear, are
negative emotions, and the body reacts by tightening.
This is a primitive way for the body to NOT FEEL
those negative emotions. By and large, most people do not want to
feel these emotions. So we tense to not experience them.
One of the things I find most beneficial about stretching is how
it releases the tension in the body for whatever reason it is there.
Whether the tightness is due to an old physical injury, lack of
activity, or negative emotions, it does not matter. Strectching
does not care, it does not judge, it is just a wonderful method
to relax and open up the areas that are tight.
How long do you hold each
stretch? That depends. I hold the
stretch with the emphasis on my proper posture (straight back, for
example, in the seated leg stretch). I observe to see if I am adhering
to the principles of stretching as outlined by my Teacher to me.
I wait until the muscle releases in that position then go down further.
This may take a few seconds for stretches that I am proficient in,
or several minutes if I have had an injury or if it is a muscle
group I have neglected.
Another training technique I use is different times for different
body sides. Example: my right hamstring was always looser than my
left. I got into the habit of holding the left side for a longer
time than the right side to correct the imbalance. So, if I stretched
over the right leg for two minutes, I stretched over the left for
three. You will be amazed at how you can correct imbalances this
way. Give it a try!
If you hear a "pop"...
There are different kinds of "pops"
you might hear when stretching seriously. I will attempt to define
what you might experience in a given stretch, and if what happened
was good or bad for you.
1: You are stretching your groin, for example, and as you push your
knees down, you hear a pop. It does not hurt, and all of a sudden.
you get down further than before. Your muscles feel warm. What happened?
You probably tore an adhesion between
your muscles. Muscles should slide along each other. From a lack
of stretching, or due to an old injury, you can have the connective
tissue surrounding one muscle get adhered, or stuck, to another.
If you stretch and tear this adhesion, you will be helping your
stretch, and rid yourself of scar tissue between muscles.
2: You are practicing the sideleg stretches, for example, and you
hear a pop behind the knee of the extended leg. Your extended leg
is locked, there is a little pain, but not unbearable, you are not
sure if you should continue. What happened? You probably
tore a tendon, and you should probably stop and fold your leg into
itself and let it rest for a few minutes. If it does not hurt after
you get out of the position, it's probably ok. If it continues to
hurt, stop and rest it. Tendons attach muscles to bone. You do not
want to damage that connection. If there was a little bit of an
adhesion and it let go, no problem. But if you did some damage,
stop immediately. Rub out the muscle, maybe ice it. We would put
a martial arts linament called teh tah chu on such injuries, which
helps to heal muscles by bringing blood to the area.
3: You are practicing the splits. One of your legs is not quite
straight as it should be. You hear a loud pop behind your knee,
followed by pain. You probably tore a
ligament. Ligaments attach bones to bones. Tearing a ligament is
almost always due to improper stretching technique, or getting into
a stretch too hard and fast. Ligaments have poor blood supply, and
when they heal, they often heal with a lot of scar tissue Stop your
practice and rub out your knee. You might need to see a health care
professional if it does not feel better in a few days (for these
type of injuries, massage and acupuncture are most helpful).
These are just examples, but are common types of injuries that can
occur when stretching. Go slow, and pay great attention to detail,
and you will minimize, if not eliminate, any injury potential.
All Body Parts are connected,,,
One of the more frequent questions I get is, "how
do I stretch the .......... muscle" fill in the blank.
Sometimes I am at a loss to tell folks what to work on. Let's take
the groin muscles, commonly tight in most people. Usually from sitting
too much, the back muscles tighten, and to take the load off the
lumbar spine, the groin can and will tighten to take some pressure
off. (for example, the psoas muscle, which attaches to either side
of the lumbar spine, and goes through the pelvis inside the medial
aspect of your femur, or thigh bone. When it tightens while you
are seated, it takes weight off of the low back.)
When I say tighten, I do not mean "spasm". A spasm is
a complete and utterly painful contracture of a muscle. A tightening
of the muscle is a low grade tension, maybe barely noticable, that
over time shortens the muscle. So when you finally try to stretch,
you don't know what you did that made you so tight!!
Do several different stretches, and you may find that your tight
groin can be released by doing the cobra!
The above is just an example.