I’m starting to have much better success stretching than I have in a long time, by mixing in some of the things I learned from the Feldenkrais Method into basic passive stretching and ballet’s barre work.
Here’s the deep secret of the day: back support.
Yep, it’s the best of Lazy Man Stretching.
Barre work is bar-none the best-documented way to get lots and lots of people flexible over a reasonable amount of time. Don’t take my word for it — go ask a dance coach. If you want a passive stretch, there’s little better than getting your leg into a position where it’s given a minor stretch, and over the course of the following weeks, altering said position as the hips loosen up.
I’m coming to have some real issues with active stretching vis-a-vis martial arts: the recovery time. It’s a non-issue if you’re 17, but at 35 I’m already noticing that I have to be very careful how I stretch, or else I can wind up effectively worthless for training. (Now, we stretch after our regular class, and then I go direct to my advanced class. In that circumstance, it’s a bonus, b/c I’m working on stuff with pre-exhausted leg muscles… thus getting me used to how I move when fatigued). So I really think the active-flexibility component should come simply from doing the activity for which you’re stretching in the first place.
So, why the back support? Because stretching isn’t really mechanical. It’s a nervous system response, with the body deciding when a given position is safe, and then deciding further when a given position doesn’t even need to be remarked upon. In other words, you’re not stretching on a piece of rawhide: rather, you’re engaged in a conversation with Lizard Brain, trying to convince it that you’re safe with the car keys.
The last thing you want to do, therefore, when stretching, is to put yourself in an uncomfortable position where you’re having to strain to maintain yourself in the stretch position… thus showering Lizard Brain with a thousand warning signals per minute. I am starting to have very good results doing my stretching while seated in a chair, doing my best to put each given muscle under a TRULY VICIOUS stretch… but keeping the ancillary stress to an absolute minimum, and supporting the body where I’m not trying to stretch.
More results as they come, but so far, the folks I train with can already see the difference.