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Stretching - does it really lengthen the muscles?

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

I’m not a great believer in static stretching. The same way as I don’t believe in static sitting.

When we sit we should sit dynamically which means our pelvis should always be free. Free to tilt forward or back. Free to tilt from side to side - one side up, one side down. Free to move in circles. I can see you’re trying it out now. See how free it can be?

What about the shoulders are they relaxed? Or are you holding one or both up higher than where they are truly at rest?

Is your jaw relaxed? Maybe you can open your mouth slightly and feel where the jaw falls to. Can you now leave your jaw there and close your mouth (your lips)?

And can you bring your attention to these areas every so often to make sure that this is the case?

What do you think just happened to the muscles in these areas? Did they let go and lengthen because you gave up engaging them?

Watch an animal stretch. If you have a dog or a cat, yes they stretch, but do they hold themselves in a static stretch for a minute hoping to lengthening their muscles? No, they are always in movement. That's a dynamic stretch. They're preparing for action.

When stretching I also keep moving and adjusting and make sure I can still breathe naturally. If you're holding your breath, you do not own that position you're in. Try little movements in a range that is easy for you. Let go of the "no pain, no gain" mentality. Warming up is not about stretching the muscles, it's about preparing for action. Because muscles don’t stay stretched. They either are activated or they are relaxed. When they’re activated they get shorter when they relax they get longer. So the idea of stretching muscles to get them longer is the antithesis of what muscles do naturally to get long. And what do you think will happen when you stop stretching the muscle?

For many people with pain or movement difficulties, often the problem is that certain muscles are constantly activated and therefore are either themselves tight and sore or causing restriction or pain somewhere else in the body. In this case, what you want to do is to teach the muscles to be able to let go and relax. This is achieved through retraining the nervous system, not through forcing muscles to stretch.

On the flip side, you’ll be amazed that by bringing your attention to "how" you use yourself in movement - as we do in the Feldenkrais Method! - you can actually relieve those problem areas in the body that are causing so much grief, because you're giving your brain (your nervous system) the chance to recognize where it is tightening muscles unnecessarily.

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