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How to Get Flexible

Are you flexible? I certainly wasn’t 35 years ago before I was Rolfed. I couldn’t cross my legs while sitting in a chair, my walk was a waddle, and by body’s soft tissue felt more like a cedar tree.

Baby boomers annually suffer from more than 1 million sports injuries which cost over $20 billion dollars in medical expenses each year. We can assume that many of those injuries could have been prevented or reduced if these people were flexible.

Upward Salute – Urdhva Hastasana - Person perf...

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How to Get Flexible – Way One

There are essentially two ways – you do it or someone does it for you. The first is stretching, a great way to keep flexible. Getting a 30 year old tight body loose through stretching may be slow at best. It can happen if the person goes slowly, and consistently and gets coaching from someone who knows what they are doing.

All too often a fellow will do a few stretches only to injury himself. What he didn’t realize was that after the fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds and is in muscles) became scar tissue, it does not release when stretched. If anything releases, it is the place of least resistance which may be too hyper-mobile to start with. This is most prevalent with knees. Over the last 30 years I have seen hundreds of runners, cyclists, and other athletes come in with chronic knee problems, many after surgeries, physical therapy, and personal training. Their knees continued to get looser and looser as the rest of them became tighter.

Don’t get me wrong; all these treatments are valid disciplines providing needed help. Unfortunately, they don’t release the chronic soft tissue tension built up over years of stress and repetitive motion.

Slow, precise, and consistent stretching can have the body begin to release this tension. Having someone who is trained in a method that focuses on releasing through relaxation can achieve this goal. Most of us guys are not strong on patience, but it is starting to change. I am seeing more and more men get into yoga. These men aren’t looking for the quick fix. They understand if they are to get benefit from yoga, they need to have good instruction and stick to it.

How to Get Flexible – Way Two

The second method: getting someone to do it for you is faster. Bodywork – massage, Feldenkrais, and Rolfing – the three most common therapies will transform a tight body into a loose one. Compared to stretching, these therapies are more passive and focus on the critical areas.

In my experience, virtually all chronic injuries are not caused by the area that is in pain. Usually that pain area needs work, but if the work is to be sustainable, the other areas need to be addressed. Good bodywork will take this systemic approach and not just keep treating the symptom.

I have seen ex-professional football players, some of the tightest athletes I Rolfed, end up with a loose and flexible body that they had thought impossible to achieve. As long as the problem is in the soft tissue, it can change. Some tight bodies just take longer.

Owen Marcus, MA Certified Advance Rolfer, www.align.org, 265.8440. He also writes about men at www.owenmarcus.com

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