What’s in a stretch?

If I had a piece of chocolate for everytime someone asked me this question…

So, to get my hamstrings to stretch… do I just need to stay in that pose for a long time? How long is long enough?

My answer is always the same.

As often as you can, as long as you can.

But. let’s be clear about this activity that we call Stretching. When you stretch, you are working on loosening up the muscle fibers and fascia that is so tight that your mobility has been compromised.

Most doctors and physical therapists will tell you that it requires 30 seconds to 180 seconds to loosen the tightness in the muscle or the connective tissue that you are stretching. Ultimately how long you stay depends on what you were trying to achieve. Learning the appropriate position and pressure is key to increasing sensitivity and getting what you want from the stretch.

Tips for the Best Stretch:
1. Set up in a relatively comfortable position where you can stay for a period of time with little fatigue. I usually recommend slanting Uttanasana for hamstrings (also known as Butts-Up-the-Wall).

2. As you increase the pressure, breathe and relax the muscles you are stretching in order to release the contracting muscle fibers and connective tissue fibers.

3. Continue to breathe and let go of the contracting muscles. In other words you have to make a concerted effort to relax what is contracting and pulling. This is not always an easy task. But as your sensitivity increases you will have more control.

4. Stay for at least 30 seconds up to three minutes. Continue to breathe and become more sensitive so you are better able to actively relax what is tightening.

5. Remember to always move with careful attention in and out of a stretching posture. I often see injuries occur when people haphazardly get out of poses. It pays to be attentive.

With regular practice you will find improvement in no time.

But you can keep the chocolate coming!