Rethinking Mobility Part1: Stretching
Let’s change the way we think about stretching. Instead of stretching being an isolated attempt to stretch and lengthen a muscle, lets make it a global approach to enhance health and move better. One of the problems with traditional stretching, is that we look at what hurts and we stretch what we think SHOULD be the problem. If my low back hurts, I’m going to stretch my low back. The issue with this approach is that the problem can be above the painful area, below the painful area or it could even be on the opposite side of the body. We could find that the actual cause of that back pain is in the hamstrings, or the glutes, maybe glute max or maybe glute medius. It could even be glute minimus. It could be a psoas issue; it could be a piriformis issue or maybe it’s a lat issue. The point is, because of the way we were designed, a certain pain or muscular dysfunction can be caused by problem in an area, quite far from what you are feeling.
This fascia we have running throughout our body not only connects everything, but it wraps everything. It is often referred to as the organ of form because it literally holds everything where it is supposed to be. Otherwise, our kidneys would eventually find their way down to our bladder. So, if you think about our 650+ muscles all wrapped in fascia and each muscle being made up of bundles of muscle fibers wrapped in fascia and each bundle made up of individual muscle cells wrapped in fascia, how can it be that beneficial to stretch a single muscle at a time?
Now, I am aware that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible to stretch one single muscle at a time. I am just talking about our thinking, not what is actually happening.
The answer can be extremely simple.
That’s it, movement. If our low back hurts, what is one of our first reactions? Bend forward and touch our toes. And this is where we stop as if there is some rule in place stopping us from doing anything further that would make our stretch look different than what was in that book. Let’s start exploring! Bend forward to stretch your low back or your hamstrings, but while your down there, a nice calm and relaxed reach for you opposite foot will completely change what you feel. Before descending into the stretch, maintaining a neutral back will change what you feel or a slight bend in the knees… completely different. The ever so popular lunge stretch (for the quads) is another good example. Instead of having your hands on the ground, add a little rotation. Now we have some lengthening in
not only the quads, but we might get some obliques some rectus abdominis (middle abs), we might feel some adductor, some hip flexor, maybe some QL. Now let’s take those hands off the floor and onto your front knee and push away slightly. Now you will get a whole lot more hip flexor, more rectus abs in addition to the quads. Now take both arm overhead. Now you have pretty much everything knee to shoulders (possibly elbow) lengthened.
The point is, in a world where we seem to have lost that connection to our bodies, it is more important than ever to rethink the way we were taught, and the way we are doing things and just do what feels right. Take the time to lengthen your connective tissues and explore. Make it your intent to learn about your own body. 5 minutes of stretching while calm and completely focused on what you are feeling at that time will go much further than 60 minutes of stretching while on your cell phone.