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Why Stretch?

First class



Neck stretches

Back Stretches

Wrist Stretches

Advanced Stretches

Prop Stretches

Side Stretches

Shoulder Stretches

Iliotibial Stretches

Balance Exercises

Standing Balance Exercises

Lotus Exercises

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Please practice these stretches with the seriousness with which they are described. It is possible to pull or tear a muscle if one does not pay proper attention to the details outlined here . Consult your physician if in doubt about your physical condition before embarking on a stretching program. The author of accepts no liability for any injuries sustained while practicing any of the stretches described within.








This 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 sweat first.
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 body does.
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. True?
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.

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