Stretch Therapy: The Low Down

Imagine waking after a long, restful sleep. Half-awake, you reach your arms overhead and extend legs, lengthening fingertips and toe tips in opposite directions as far as possible, taking a deep breath (or yawn) as you s-t-r-e-t-c-h… it’s natural, instinctive, and it feels amazing right? So why don’t we stretch more?

In my experience, most people have similar thoughts on stretching:

  • They don’t do enough of it 
  • If they did more, they would feel better and be less prone to injury
  • But it takes time they don’t have
  • They wish someone else could do it for them

STRETCH THERAPY

Whether you are active, or forced to sit for long periods of time at a desk, you may develop strength imbalances, muscle and joint tightness and a loss of range of motion leading to poor posture, ineffective breathing, pain and risk of injury.

Stretch Therapy is a table-based assisted stretch offering a full body assessment; targeted, pain-free stretches that focus on fascia (connective tissue found throughout the body), muscles, joints and the nervous system to restore natural movement to the body.

The use of comfortable straps helps to stabilize the client to the treatment table to facilitate complete relaxation which enhances the effectiveness of the stretches. We often have clients falling asleep during a session, relaxation is an important layer to what we do, down-regulating the nervous system as many of the factors that lead to unhealthy muscle tone are stress induced. We coordinate our movements to the client’s breath, allowing the body to switch from the sympathetic “fight or flight” mode that we are all too often stuck in, to the parasympathetic “rest digest” mode where healing begins.

IMPROVE POSTURE

What is causing the issues in the tissues? Poor posture can be caused by years of habitual physical patterns (sitting, computer gaze, text neck, previous injury to name a few) but just as influential is the emotional state of the person. When we are stressed, feel threatened or sad, we curl inwards to protect our most vulnerable center, our heart. The shoulders round forward, the breastbone collapses and breathing is limited. Even when the emotional vulnerability has passed, the physical posture may remain, this can convince the nervous system that we are still in distress. Posture and ease of movement are so critical to our overall wellbeing.

 In a trained Stretch Therapists hands, you can relax completely. You are encouraged to close your eyes and let us do all the work. We are specially trained to recognize the healthy and safe limit of each muscle, taking it into a new range of movement in small increments, never holding the stretch for long periods of time. This dynamic style of stretching warms and lubricates the joints and sliding surfaces of all of the tissues, allowing the nervous system to accept the new range of movement as healthy.

ELIMINATE PAIN

Stretch Therapy is dance-like, the therapist moving the client’s body in waves, spirals, circles and swoops. With the addition of traction, the stretches become fluid, dynamic and most importantly, pain-free. Movements are coordinated with breath so that the body releases into the new range without struggle or pain. We often have clients who have had some history of assisted stretching with a bio / trainer / physio, and all remark how completely different Stretch Therapy feels.

A client comment I hear often, “I never knew stretching could feel so good, it’s exactly what my body wanted but never knew it needed”.

The entire session is an assessment by the therapist who identifies areas of restriction of natural movement. Instead of focusing on individual muscles, this style of stretch asses and addresses the entire fascia line that connects chains of muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, nerves and blood vessels via connective tissue. For example, we do not address just the tight hamstring, but rather the entire fascia line (superficial back line) that they sit in, that connects the bottom of the foot, all the way up the back body, ending just above the eyebrows. By assessing and stretching the entire line, the hamstrings are better able to lengthen safely.

MOVE BETTER

Stretch Therapy is valuable to every modern body that finds they are forced to remain stationary for long periods of time, has too little time or motivation to include stretching into their routine, from the athlete, to the weekend warrior, to the workaholic, to the stay at home parent who has little time to treat themselves to an hour of bliss. Human touch is healing, movement is medicine, Stretch Therapy offers an insight into the wonderful potential of each and every body to move freely and joyfully.

For those who are very restricted, a weekly session is recommended, and as the range of movement improves, we scale back to more of a maintenance regime of once every two weeks or once a month.

ACTIVATIONS

Although the Stretch Therapy addresses many tension imbalances in the body, often there is a long history of dysfunction that needs more tools to correct the pattern. For those who suffer from reoccurring injury or tightness that will not relent, I include Be Activated Muscle Testing and Activations. Here were test various muscle groups for under or overactivity, we activate or switch on neural drive to under-active muscles and make reciprocal-partner muscles work better together to stabilise a joint. This is an amazing tool to combine with the Stretch Therapy, particularly for those who take their physical training seriously. Should the activations work well on a client, homework activations are taught to the client to continue their gains. 

Currently there are only four certified Fascia Stretch Therapists™ in South Africa, and only two of those are Level 2 FST™ certified. Training is done in either Arizona, USA or Toronto, Canada. This style of assisted stretch is massively popular overseas and is set to follow suit in South Africa as more and more people recognize the importance of flexibility and mobility in maintaining a healthy and happy body.

Carly Bowden is based in Sandton – bookings can be made here.

In Linden, bookings can be made with Adele van der Walt here.

Photo credit: Chloe O’Dogherty from Kiss Kiss Photography. Model: 

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