Regular Old Stretching (ROS) versus
Conscious Stretching (Yoga) — Part 1
Some people ask How To Stretch:
Other people ask if or how they can do meditation with physical, postural yoga. Well, YES, and some would say you can’t really separate them. Here’s just ONE way to approach it.
Tolerate & Wait ≠ Relaxation
You may have seen or felt how ROS works. Someone, or you, would place his or her body in a position called a “stretch.” … They’d sink in as far as they could, usually up to or somewhat past the point of discomfort or pain, often to where it was barely tolerable. …
Then they waited … and waited … hoping to get the muscle to SOMEHOW stretch out, SOMEDAY. … Often times, it never did.
Or they’d hold on till reaching that 2 or 20 or 60 seconds a teacher or book told them about. After the time elapsed, they stopped the stretch … often with GREAT relief. And very often, rather than liking the stretch, they tolerated it. …
Now, please ask yourself, when you are tolerating something, is that usually very relaxing for you?
Elusive Elasticity While “Stretching”
ROS itself is very mechanical, like waiting for taffy or a rubber band to “stretch” out. Not much consciousness or meditative mind involved. It’s not Awareness working, but mostly willpower, actually the opposite of meditation.
Anyway, sometimes the muscle would give some and loosen up. But very often, they stretched, with not much or any loosening, until they couldn’t take the pain, or got bored, or distracted, or the teacher or book said come out of the stretch. …
This often leads to no real results, or in some cases, injury, such as a pulled or strained muscle. For many people, that elusive elasticity never arrived.
And of course there was usually someone in the room who made it all look way too easy, and everyone else jealous. They effortlessly got into any posture they wanted. They sure must have had a lot of elasticity in those muscles!
BUT . . . Muscles Are Not Rubber Bands!!!
Nor Are They Substantially Elastic!
HINT: There is NO rubber in a muscle.
Muscles do NOT stretch the way a rubber band or elastic band does!
And, contrary to much recent commentary & theory, very little of a muscle is elastic.
In fact, the main elements of muscle fibers have about half the tensile strength of steel wire! They do NOT stretch! So waiting for a muscle to “restore its elasticity” is for the most part futile and a waste of time, if not outright dangerous.
Same goes for fascia, which is even less elastic. You can “stretch” fascia even less than muscles. But once you see how muscles & fascia actually work, you’ll know that minimal elasticity is a GOOD thing, and the way it was designed by Nature and/or Nature’s God.
(The Near-Myth-Conception of elasticity in muscles & fascia and why they cannot truly “stretch” will be explained in the Next Article.)
To Summarize, a Regular Old Stretch happens when you place your body into a position you’ve seen or read about somewhere. You “stretch” to the point of more-or-less tolerable sensation, or worse. Then you waited until the muscle — somehow — decided to stretch out, or not. Then, for whatever reason, you came out of the stretch.
End of Story, unless there were residual aches or pains, which sometimes did not show up until hours or days later. … Or INJURY, which is becoming more common.
Let-Go Yoga™ & Conscious Stretching
Exploring & Responding to Sensation
Now, as you explore and feel these sensations, which might be very subtle, ask yourself some other questions:
1.) Am I sub-consciously holding this muscle tight? Can I intentionally Let-Go of or DE-Contract this muscle?
(If you clench your fist then unclench it or let it go, the letting go part is the DE-contraction or relaxation of muscle.)
2.) If I spend enough time JUST FEELING the tension, rather than trying to force or coerce it to relax, will the muscle spontaneously let go, seemingly by itself? …
Most of the time, just Being Aware of What Is, not pushing deeper, in itself, triggers the relaxation you’re looking for. This is a natural reflex built into your nervous system. But this reflex can be over-ridden by stress, habit or trauma.)
3.) If I wait a while, can I LEARN HOW to let go of this muscle? (YES, but for some, it could take a lot of time.)
4.) Is this a non-conscious tension I can indirectly influence with my mind? (Some tensions are reflexive or habitual, not directly held in place by mental processes. Some are very chronically held. This can take even more time.)
5.) How much time am I willing to spend to explore & learn about how my feels and body works?
(Depends on how fast you want your C.E.M.&.N.T.* to go away. It’s about priorities.)
Here’s another way of “how to stretch” …
Or is it “how to do yoga”?
Select a yoga posture. Slowly sink in until you feel a small amount of sensation, or “stretch” at your easy ROM (Range of Motion). Explore the sensations, taking a look around in there with your mind. …
Except in extreme trauma or desensitization, you will, over time, begin to feel the area more precisely or deeply than usual. That SENSE is in itself what brings about change. If you detect ANY resistance AT ALL to a stretching action, you hold right there and ask yourself questions like these:
1.) Do I LIKE this sensation?
2.) Or at very least am I very NEUTRAL about it?
3.) Or am I TOLERATING this sensation in anyway?
4.) Or maybe I DON’T LIKE the sensation?
5.) Or this HURTS too much?
If you are tolerating the sensation AT ALL, or don’t like it, you are Over The Edge. So back off to the point that you are neutral or like it, being well within your Edges.
(I’ll be writing at least several articles about The Edge and how to work with them over the upcoming issues. — DSL)
By-the-Way: There are people for whom stretching feels very good, even blissful, but not everyone. It has a lot to do with levels of certain neurotransmitters in the blood stream, which is different for everyone. …
So don’t worry about it. Except, if there’s no pleasure, it can be harder to talk yourself into doing yoga! So you need good reasons.
Tensions Tend To Relax Spontaneously
There is, of course, more to this process. We will cover that. But today, we are talking about building a sensory-motor foundation to build your yoga practice off of.
If the tension releases, sink deeper. If not, don’t push it.
As you try these ideas, the overt mental focus begins to fade away over time. Your “questions” begin to ask themselves in a more psycho-physical, intuitive or meditative way. …Try all his for a few weeks and see how it works.
This is just one way to become more Conscious of your Stretching. It’s one aspect of combining physical yoga with mental yoga, using a more meditative approach. …
If You Cannot FEEL Your Muscle Tensions Without Pain
For some, this can be all or nothing experience. You might feel either PAIN or NOTHING with no edges or likable sensations in between. You might get frustrated with “the nothing part.” There’s too much DE-sensitization in the area to feel or respond to anything, so it will take time to RE-sensitize. In that case, you ask yourself the question:
What does it FEEL like to not feel? … Get interested in THAT, the fact that you cannot feel it, and you soon will.
Thanks for Reading,
David Scott Lynn (DSL*)
* DSL: Your Hi-Touch Up-Link to the Inner-Net
Inner-Net: Your Psycho-Neuro-Musculo-Fascial System
Therapeutic Let-Go Yoga and The DSL Method of
Yoga/Bodywork/Whole Health Therapeutics: