Monday, 25 November 2013

A fresh take on stretching

After presenting at the Stretch Therapy Community 2013 Convention, my ideas needed to be written up for others to continue expanding this fresh take on stretching. For the the last few months I have been playing with reciprocal inhibition, stretching the agonist by maximally contracting the antagonist or other muscles. The aim is to enhance stretching the agonist and simultaneously strengthening the antagonist or other muscles. 

From Wikipedia:

Reciprocal inhibition describes the process of muscles on one side of a joint relaxing to accommodate contraction on the other side of that joint. Joints are controlled by two opposing sets of muscles, extensors and flexors, which must work in synchrony for smooth movement. When a muscle spindle is stretched and the stretch reflex is activated, the opposing muscle group must be inhibited to prevent it from working against the resulting contraction of the homonymous muscle. This inhibition is accomplished by the actions of an inhibitory interneuron in the spinal cord.

By maximally contracting the antagonist, simultaneously focusing on maximal relaxation to the agonist, I have been able to make a significant leap in range of motion, plus strengthening the antagonist by using the flexibility tension in the agonist. 

Initially the concept was doing my head in! Persistence opened up a new experience in honing my focus to the internal experience of my body. I identified the areas in my body where there were huge differences between strength and flexibility. My aim was to bring balance back in the body by being both strong and flexible. 

For example flexing the forearm muscles to stretch the extensor forearm muscles. Another example is to flex the Posterior Chain of muscles using the strength the Anterior Chain, or Superficial Back Line versus Superficial Front Line. You can see this application can be applied in a multitude of ways. In my next post I will expand the idea of using other muscles apart from the antagonist. 

Standing on my left leg, the quads and hip flexors on my right leg had a hard time lifting to 90 degrees, yet the right calf and hamstrings are loose enough for me to place my head on my right knee in a seated forward bend. My right hip flexor strength was poor. Over time I have been able to improve the strength by lifting a bent right leg to chest, then straightening to full extension whilst maintaining as much height as possible. Using 3 second holds, varying the vector to full abduction to the side or taking the leg behind, using 3 rounds with the right leg never touching the floor, my balance and strength improved. The flexibility and strength ratio is less polarized. Of course I also practice on my left side. You can also vary the holding time, how many rounds or adding figure eights and shapes for joint mobility. 

This little daily routine just takes a keen focus on reaching your strength and flexibility limits. In a few weeks you will notice the difference. In a month you will be pleased with your own gains. 

Move smoothly, with grace, Cherie

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