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Posture and Flexibility are important components to our health and well-being. Together they help prevent tight muscles, injuries, headaches, and body discomfort. Our digestion, mood and even our appearance benefit.
We know we need to stretch but it can be challenging to get started, especially with certain injuries or limitations in mobility.
Assisted Stretching Techniques are when our muscles are relaxed, and someone stretches our bodies for us. We can stretch a bit farther than we can on our own.
Assisted Stretching can help get us to a daily routine if we feel inflexible or are recovering from an injury.
There are a variety of techniques incorporated by different health professionals. These are three of my favorites, but I would encourage you to do research on others.
MFR (Myofascial Release)
‘Myo’ is Muscle, ‘Fascia’ is a connective tissue which is like a webbing throughout your body. Fascia wraps around every organ, muscle, bone, nerve fiber and blood vessel - holding them in place.
When we stretch, we are affecting our fascia along with our muscles. Most of us have restrictions in this connective tissue resulting from postural habits, repetitive movements, or trauma/injury. This acts like a snag in a sweater. For example, if the tissue is bound up at the hip it can pull on the shoulder as well as the knee. These restrictions reduce mobility and is why a wholistic approach is needed in stretching.
The practitioner will apply gradual, sustained stretching, holding each for 2-5 minutes. This technique includes gentle traction of the arms, legs and head, cross-hand elongating and deep gliding massage movements.
PNF [sports] Stretching or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation
There are several versions of this but for me, the simplest is to contract the same muscle group that you wish to stretch. Essentially this is a ‘contract-relax/stretch-relax’ method. It tricks the muscle to elongate a little farther than a static stretch. This technique is applied by a practitioner. They will have you contract against their resistance. They will ask you to relax. Then they will assist your stretch for a few seconds. You will relax and recover for several seconds. Repeating the process will allow your muscles to stretch a little farther each time.
Thai-Yoga Massage is a blend of passive stretching and massage movements. This may include rocking, jostling, and compression. Sessions may have a deeply meditative, calming, and relaxing effect, or may be stimulating and invigorating.
Regular sessions help to reduce accumulated stress and tension in body and mind. They improve flexibility and mobility, while relieving pain. An ancient ‘folk art’ with roots in traditional yoga and Buddhist spiritual practice with elements of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, Thai Yoga Massage stimulates and balances the flow of healing energy. It helps to clear energy pathways/meridians that are blocked, which is similar in premise to reflexology and acupuncture.
Thai Yoga Massage may be performed on a large comfortable mat on the floor or on a massage table. Depending on the practitioner, it may also be combined with relaxing or deep tissue massage and other assisted stretching techniques I’ve described. No oil is used, and the client remains fully dressed in comfortable clothing.
Because of the nature of some of the movements and individual muscular restrictions, there is also a level of trust developed between client and practitioner.
After any bodywork, it is recommended to drink some water. Relaxing afterward continues the benefits, like a warm bath, meditation, a nap, or a leisurely walk. Avoid strenuous exercise that will make your muscles tight again.
As with any form of holistic care or exercise regimen, each session builds off the one before. One session will feel amazing and certainly relax or energize you. Consistency and self-care between sessions will bring your body back into balance.
I recommend asking practitioners where they have trained and how long they have been practicing. Most are happy to answer any questions you may have about their work. As with any bodywork style or exercise program, whenever in doubt with specific medical issues, always consult your physician prior to making your appointment.