Most have been taught to hold a stretch for 15, 30, you name it seconds and then move on. If this is your method of stretching, then let’s refine it a bit.
For years I’ve been preaching the importance of stretching and it still remains the primary tool for my own daily fitness routine. I’d like to share more about what should be happening during the stretch.
What To Do
Begin by going into a familiar stretch, but don’t press through the initial point of resistance. This is the most common mistake made when stretching. By diving past the resistance, you trigger a natural reaction in the body to protect and contract (the opposite of what we’re striving for). Instead, simply wait there, focus on your breath and the point of resistance. Your breath’s natural expansion and contraction will give a gentle signal to the area of tension to begin your body’s natural ‘release’, not stretch. By focusing you mind on the area of resistance, you send warming blood to the area to allow the tissue to naturally soften.
This is the difference between stretch and release. As you practice this skill you can then apply it to a more active stretch for bigger results, but it again happens as a natural consequence of approaching your stretch with the aforementioned awareness in place.
This approach to loosening the tissue in Qigong is called regulation: body, breath and mind. Try this:
1) sit to the front on your chair
2) fold your hands together on your lap
3) breathe in, breathe out… attention only on those two thoughts and awareness of you abdomen.
After 5 minutes, you’ll find your mind has wandered many, many times. If you successfully brought you attention back to your breath, you’ll notice an overall softness in the body, calmness of the mind, and depth to your breath.
This practice is simple, but not easy. But it is a practice and with time your practice will improve and you will see bigger results. Its a practice that can replace your daily headache med, your afternoon cup of coffee or evening beverage of choice.
If this practice brings benefit and you want to learn more, get started with a deeper practice by scheduling your first qigong class. During a typical class, we cover the 3 regulations mentioned through seated meditation and movement exercises designed to isolate specific aspects of your overall health. Most leave the class feeling quietly invigorated and rinsed from the stresses and pains of the work day.
If nothing else, commit to this 5 minute practice and make it a part of you everyday routine. Your body and mind will thank you for it.