Questions in black, answers from Kit Laughlin in gray
I have Kit's latest version of Stretching & Flexibility, and I would love to use some of the C-R flexibility exercises with some of my students, but have a couple of questions re guidelines.
Due to time restrictions in our dance classes, I would need to teach my students particular exercises rather than take them through a full lesson.
I understand completely, and 15’ at the end of class when everyone’s warmed up is the best time to stretch, anyway.
For example, they need to work on hamstring, hip flexor and adductor and calf flexibility so I am wanting to teach them exercises specific to those muscles.
Kit mentions that you should only stretch twice a week to begin with (when you are working through a lesson). Does that guideline change if you are working through a collection of individual exercises as opposed to a lesson?
No, it’s to account for recovery time. If any student has any kind of improvement > breakthrough in any session, the muscles being worked will be sore the following days. The degree of soreness depends on the student + the intensity they are using, and that is relative to the student—there is no absolute standard in this.
If the student is not sore, then contractions can be used at the subsequent session; if they are, just holding a suitable end position is the best alternative.
To put this in context, a limber class in a dance studio looks like a hard stretching session to an outsider if they can't easily do any of the exercises, but to the participants is simply an extended warm-up. So it will be with your students: in the beginning, for the tight ones, every stretching session will be experienced as hard work, while the flexible ones will experience it as a nice cool-down!
At what stage would you increase that and how many times a week would you increase that to?
There is no overall recommendation I can make; some students improves fastest using contractions on their tightest parts only once a week; others can stretch daily, and with contractions, and most fall in between. Encourage them to find the best frequency themselves—and only they can do this. The same exercises can be taught to all of them at the same time, but you can say ‘if you are too sore (or too tight) to do a strong stretch on the parts we are working today, just hold the end position and don’t use the contractions.’ As well (and I think this development came after Phil and I worked together) for the tight students, the bent-to-straight knee hamstring and adductor stretches work far better than the standard ones used in the dance world.
We explore some of these methods in Olivia’s “Slow–Flow” Vimeo programs; I have just added some bonus elements to Slow-Flow 2 today, as it happens, and some of these are explored there.
Also, what is the minimum age that you would recommend as a safe age to start using the C-R method?
I cannot give one; it depends on the individual ability of the student, and how well they can understand instructions, and how well they can attend to what's happening in their body. The primary concern is care: if you give the responsibility to the students, they become self-teaching, in time, and they will soon work out how far they can push themselves. I have only worked with a few children, so I will be interested to hear how you go using the approach.
I will say that when stretching children, floor versions of hamstring and adductor exercises are preferable to barre versions (because on the floor the back of the knee cannot be hyperextended).