Newsletter no. 9 – Monday 16 August, 2021
This is the web-based version of Stretch Therapy Newsletter no. 9
And, find three videos. Two are partner exercises (more on partner work below), and one is a multi-vector exercise that targets a number of muscles and incorporates multiple movements in the one pose.
Working with fascia
There are no hard and fast rules for working with fascia, but we offer here a few ‘guidelines’ (think Geoffrey Rush in the Pirates of the Caribbean!):
If you suspect fascial adhesions between the superficial fascia layer and the muscles immediately underneath, then ask your partner to work the skin of the affected part both crossways and longitudinally, until they feel that the skin can move freely in all directions. When you then try the re-stretch, do not be surprised to find that what you thought was the restriction has changed completely. The video RollStretch for thoracic fascial release below discusses this in more detail. The gracilis–inner hamstring release is an example of a different kind of adhesion, in this instance between adjoining muscle sheaths. If present, this will require manual release.
If, on the other hand, you feel that a restriction is being experienced more deeply in a muscle, then you will find that placing the muscle in a position of maximum relaxation before using RollStretch pressure techniques (like a hard ball, or a stick) will be more effective. Trigger points (still undefined precisely in the literature, beyond re-describing the phenomenon) I define as localised areas in muscles that cannot be relaxed voluntarily, when the rest of the area can relax. Rolling, micro-movements when in a relatively gentle stretch, heat, vibration, and manual techniques can all help.
Speaking more generally, do whatever you find you can do that will allow these areas to soften, and release, even if the techniques that you use do not follow these general guidelines. Grace and ease in the body is what we are all trying for.
Using the weight or strength and tactile contact available from another person has been emblematic of our work since the beginning – nothing will help you get looser and stronger more quickly in Stretch Therapy than working with a partner. In the era of COVID-19, though, this has become more difficult, though not impossible (unless you are in quarantine, alone on a desert island).
We regard partner work as being a necessary, but not necessarily a regular part of the work – at one point when the Advanced group was sieging the hip flexors, we did the partner version of that stretch once a week, and this is an excellent frequency for most people. Having said that, if you are still a bit sore from the previous workout, no matter what period of time ago, it’s usually better to take another day or two off from that exercise and work on something else. Examples of where this might be useful are front and side splits.
In the ST system, nearly all partner exercises have their solo versions, but because you will need to apply the required force yourself in this instance, it is consequently harder to relax. It can be done, though, and we will be recording a solo version of the partner shoulder pushdown soon as an example, as Olivia mentions below.
Partner shoulder depress
This exercise is magic for neck and shoulder tension, and after doing it once, you will feel that the weight of the world has been lifted from your shoulders.
Although not described in the video, you may use single shoulder contractions before then trying to pull that shoulder down, using the muscles under the arms. The reason this exercise is so effective is we are showing the body how to stretch itself, and we have found that the more you can encourage the body to do this, the longer lasting the effect is.
[There is a solo variation of this exercise – we will post it soon!]
RollStretch for thoracic fascial release
Olivia and I discovered this on a workshop a few years ago. Sometimes the limitation to a particular movement is not in the muscles or the skeleton – it can be in the superficial fascial layer and no amount of conventional stretching will change this.
This video demonstrates a manual release for the thoracic area of the spine, and if your fascia is limiting you in the forward bend, using this release should make a significant improvement.
Combination lunge, spinal extension, and spinal rotation
This video shows a combination movement to stretch multiple lines through the front of the body. Quads, all hip flexors, abdominals, intercostals are all targeted, as is the diaphragm. It's a very active exercise, meaning you are strongly pulling yourself into spinal extension and rotation. Super effective!
An addendum to this video shows a variation where you rest on the elbow of the bottom arm – this is very effective if you seek to emphasise the thoracic rotation aspect of this position.
A note from a student
After watching it, I had a friend perform that release on me and it made a MASSIVE difference with an ongoing restriction I was feeling in my back. Despite having tried other stretching moves & mobility releases, this was the one that worked. Thank-you from my restriction free back
Richard W., Australia