Stretching is considered a staple of many movement arts yet no animal practice it. Cats do limber themselves but do not confuse that with stretching.
I present an opposing approach to this paradigm. Movement needs an opposing movement to create both the physical ability and the nerve activation to allow the body to move on its tracks.
Let us take three examples to illustrate this idea.
First let us tackle the arms and shoulders. Many cannot touch a part of their back with their hands or cannot bring their arms up overhead without bending the spine.
- Take a stick and hold it with both hands behind you and perpendicular to the ground. Start with the hands together and move them slowly up and down in line with your spine as one arm pushes down and the other up. This creates a closed circuit of tension and mobility in the body both giving fullness to the movement and allows the nervous system to open up to new ranges of motion. As you progress, add distance between the hands on the stick and then you can add speed.
- Hold a stick parallel to the ground with both hands at it’s ends. Start moving it across the back with one hand resisting the other pushing and pulling according to the direction. With diligence you will open new ranges of motion and here closing the gap between the hands will increase the range of motion in different parts of the back and shoulder belt.
Now let us tackle the legs and hips. Many cannot spread their legs or squat to the ground without bending or twisting the spine.
- Stand with your spine and hips relaxed and place one foot slightly ahead of the hips and the other slightly behind. Keep both pairs of toes forward and slowly squat as you pull both legs toward each other from the hips. This demands you hug the ground with your feet. A quality that needs practice in starting and stopping at will as well. As you progress, you will be able to bring the legs further apart as you keep your hips and spine relaxed and naturally upright.
- Stand with your spine and hips relaxed and place both feet to the sides but start the turn at the hips and do not twist your legs at all. Place both legs under your hips and slowly squat and you pull both legs away from the hips. As you progress, you will be able to bring the legs further apart as you keep your hips and spine relaxed and naturally upright.
Last we will tackle the spine. Moving the spine as one unit and in all directions will benefit everyone and open new ways of moving and seeing.
- Sit or squat and hold one end of a rope as the other end is secured to a solid anchor. Rise and twist against the rope in one direction and then in the other direction. Your arms are moving in one direction as the body resists slightly. This with time and a shorter length of rope as you progress, will allow for the spine to move on the twist easier and with no excess brace tension.
- Place a stout stick between two stout sticks parallel to the ground or make friends. Relax the middle of your spine where your ribs end on the stick, slowly letting gravity open your vertebrae and use your breathing to slowly go back and arch against the stick. Repeat the drill facing toward the stick and with your sides to it. Keep your breath continuous and light and once this stage is comfortable, start traveling up and down the spine while on the stick. It is important to do all four sides in any one point along the spine so as to reveal through movement new comfort and ability and health.
Smile. It is sometimes all that is left.