I recently realised that most people have no idea what an assisted Moving Stretch session is like, so I thought I would write an article on the experience – both from my point of view as a trainer and from the client’s point of view.
Most people think of assisted stretching as passively lying down and have a trainer do all the work – which it can be, depending on the method. However, at Moving Stretch (and with resistance stretching in general) we do not really like the idea of working on a passive body.
Why not? Well it would be much easier for us! But when people relax their bodies and stretch as far as they can it is usually just the weaker parts of the body that cannot resist that force that end up getting stretched, potentially leading to overstretching injuries (I have seen quite a few) and not really affecting the big gnarly tense areas at all.
If there is a mantra for Moving Stretch it is that we only want to be flexible where we are also strong, so flexibility should never be at the cost of stability, as this would increase the risk of injury and weakness. However, everyone’s natural range of motion and physical pattern is individual to them, so we cannot stretch everyone in the same way.
Therefore, whenever a client comes in I have no preconceptions on how to proceed, I just work with their body to find their natural ROM and any unnecessary restrictions that they have (these may have compensated for poor biomechanics or injury in the past and then simply stuck around because the client did not know they were there or how to remove them).
When a client comes in we take a few details, including what their aims are (if any) and their issues and then we do walking massage to warm the person up (which is very safe by the way as we do not generally use our whole body weight). As I am doing this I am also feeling with my feet for the areas of restriction as well as the general quality of the tissue; how elastic, hydrated, warm etc. Then we start the stretching part of the session.
Because it is resistance stretching, the person engages their muscles – not 100%, stiff-as-a-plank, rigor-mortis style, but a comfortable level of sustained tension. This also engages their fascia, their very tense areas and protects their weaker areas. As we move their arm or leg through a whole range of motion (not just going right to the end) we challenge stuck areas and work into areas of stiffness, all of which helps to recondition their fascia, making it more youthful, elastic and strong, and to promote circulation of fluid through the tissues, which is essential for health and has markedly declined with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles and proportion of desk-based jobs (I can’t speak – writing a book is even more hours at the computer! Cue stretching…).
This kind of session delivers more than most people expect; we are working on the quality of tissue and the structure of the body to get some very liberating changes for people. So while many people come in just to feel a bit looser, or because they had specific issues in an area, they may leave with a range of unforeseen benefits. These range from feeling more grounded and stable, much lighter, freer to move in many directions, more optimistic, more energetic and lots of other different changes. Interestingly, we as trainers cannot ever really predict what benefits people will experience and this is because people’s bodies and patterns tend to be quite complex, and also people experience increased freedom of movement differently.
Personally I feel like I have done a good job when the person’s pain or tension has diminished or gone completely, their posture is different and they seem to have a fresh perspective and more of a shine in their eyes as well as a calmer, more open body.
The key to keeping this benefit going is to drink enough water, not dive back into work mode immediately (or rather, you can go back to work, but you can let yourself be calm and not need to have a frenzied nervous system), allow yourself to move differently, keep breathing deeply and to do the self-stretches so that you can build on this change by yourself.
Taking any exercises or stretches home can be hard, I know – I am naturally lazy – so I recommend that if you find yourself avoiding it, make it more fun by listening to a podcast or watching TV at the same time. I mean, ideally it is better to pay attention to our bodies, but to start with just making sure we do them at all is more important.
The clients I see that change the most start to enjoy moving more and more, and they start to really enjoy stretching. This may seem like it would never happen for those of us who are not naturally physical, or who have an injury that makes us not want to pay attention to our bodies, but it is worth remembering that bodies are fun, they can improve with sustained use and effort and that enjoying them is our birthright.
So, if you do want to make a real change to your body, I do highly recommend an assisted stretching session with one of us. You can find a trainer on this page, many of which are certified assisted stretching trainers, or you can also attend a group or 1-2-1 class to learn self-stretching, which also gets great benefits – just slightly different.
Many people I see are a little apologetic, as if there is not enough wrong with them to justify an appointment, but we are big believers in preventative work and most people I see could use some work on their tissue or posture. It is much better to do this work before it has become bad enough to become painful, but if you are in pain we may be able to help you too – just do make sure you see your doctor or physio first to make sure you are stretch-ready.
Thanks for reading this, if you have any questions feel free to comment below!