Thursday, November 13, 2014

Don’t stretch! Instead, relax until your muscles loosen.

I'm a retired team-sports jock. In high school, I was a member at various times of the varsity basketball, tennis, soccer, and track teams. Later in life, I learned to play shortstop for a recreational softball team, and I played corporate-league basketball.

Needless to say, I’m no stranger to locker rooms, gymnasiums, practice sessions, games, and tournaments. I’m also well versed in ways to stretch my muscles before and after working out so as to prevent injury.

Early in my athletic experiences, stretching was always uncomfortable. It felt as if my muscles were tight, and I was using various poses to take the tight muscle and pull on it slowly until it submitted and loosened.

I remember when my whole approach to stretching changed in the mid-90s, which was approximately the same time I began to practice different types of meditation. I was in the middle of my stretching routine, and I just didn’t feel like yanking on my own body anymore. Instead, I just remained in the stretching position, relaxed, breathed deeply, and stopped trying to make things happen. To my surprise, the more my breathing, mind, and total body relaxed, the more my muscle loosened and stretched out. Whoosh! My body part just “melted” into position, smoothly and easily.

The difference between stretching and relaxing was like the difference between cutting into a cold stick of butter immediately after it’s been taken out of the refrigerator and moving the knife through the stick after it’s been on the table for a few hours.

In recent years, whether it’s an athletic pursuit or some other activity, I think to myself, “Relax into it,” and things tend to go smoother and easier. 

Don’t push or pull. Relax and flow.

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