A Yoga teacher suggesting that a stretch could be too long?
If the title of this blog has you puzzled, it may be in part because the physical practice of Yoga is often associated with the stretching & lengthening of muscles; but maybe the idea of it being possible to stretch too much hadn’t occurred to you?
Whatever has your curiosity, my goal is for you to practice safely and consequently enjoy the practice of Yoga long into your future.
While it’s true that both short term and long term relief can be felt from the ‘stretching’ of muscles; the technique is not appropriate for everyone.
The problem with holding long stretches is that sometimes the chronically tight muscles are the result of dysfunctional movement patterns and the muscle you are trying to stretch is doing a job that it is not designed for.
Take the example of the Hamstrings: For the sake of simplicity I will refer to the hamstrings as one unit.
The Hamstrings are strong and powerful and are capable of taking up the slack when there is a lack of support elsewhere. They keep the individual walking around, going about their daily activities and the only indication a person may have that something isn’t right is when the area is overly tight.
So they get themselves to a Yoga class with the goal of stretching them out. Sounds fair right?
They get into the muscle and are committed to releasing this uncomfortable and restricted feeling. Consequently, they hold and hold and maybe hold some more.
Aaaaah, feels so good.
They may well continue to experience relief for a while after class, as they make their way home and perhaps into the next day.
And then; maybe a sharp pain, perhaps a spasm and in unfortunate cases, a collapse to the floor as their body responds to it’s familiar support network being inoperative, because it is to flaccid for the job it is being asked to do.
While thankfully this is not the experience of everyone that holds deep releases, it is more common than is ideal.
Thankfully the solution is simple. There needs to be some rekindling of the support muscles that you do want engaged before coming up to standing, and most certainly before leaving the class. An easy sequence in this scenario would include pelvic presses, Pelvis rolls, Abductor and Adductor work.
It is just not reasonable to expect the body to reconfigure a whole new firing sequence without giving it some direction.
Think of it like a seesaw between release and support, release and support. Over time your body will become strong, supple and satisfied.
Want to know more? Here is the link to a New York times article that focuses more on why you should not stretch before exercise, picking up heavy items etc.