Thursday, July 17, 2008

Stretching II

Okay. Full disclosure: I stretch every morning, religiously, for about twenty minutes. Telling you not to stretch was a something in the way of shock tactics.

But very different activities that can be referred to by "stretching." One is what I was decrying in the post before last: trying to make your body move where you think it ought to be able to move. It's a really good way to injure yourself. Another is gently and attentively moving "as far as it goes," no matter where that is. As my adverbs make plain, that's the kind I approve of.

When you realize that the limits of movement are not the length of the muscle and tendon, but the length of the most tightly "hooked" strands of the muscle, you'll be more understanding and forgiving of the fact that "as far as it goes" may be considerably less today that it was yesterday. This is intricate living tissue we're talking about, not the waistband of a pair of jeans.

What I usually do -- whether I learned this from Anderson or not, I can't remember -- is to move "as far as it goes" -- what I think Anderson calls "finding the stretch" -- and then stay there, breathing into it at least three breaths. I back off immediately if it hurts, or starts to tremble. Generally I do the whole thing two or three times. Usually you go farther each time, but it doesn't matter whether you do or not: what matters is that you take as far as it wants to go, but no farther. Much of what's going on is not in the muscle being "stretched," it's in the other muscles that are finding themselves in different positions, undergoing different stresses. They wake up, become interested. We customarily neglect most of our body; paying attention to parts of it only when they're in pain or delivering exceptional pleasure. Which is a pity, because it has a great deal to tell us. A tremendous amount of information is available to us through the sensations of touch and proprioception, most of which we resolutely ignore. We mostly go through our day with our touch-eyes closed. So we're taken completely by surprise by a stabbing pain in the back, or a spasm in the neck, or a knee locking up. The messengers have been in the anteroom so long that they've forgotten their business; they're playing cards, doodling, dozing in the corner.

No comments: