GentlE Stretching

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Gentle movement stretching (GMS) increases your range of comfortable motion so you can move through your normal day without experiencing pain due to injury or physical disuse.  You may not be able to touch your toes, for example, but with a regular regimen of GMS you can get closer to your toes without discomfort or hurting yourself. 

Instructions for a Mindful Movements Exercise Regimen.

Preliminaries.  On your next few easy, off-day workouts, find a quiet, private, easily accessible place, that’s sheltered from the wind, including an object you can use for balance and support, such as a pipe railing about hip height.  Each of your workout routes should have such a quiet place.

  • A mindful movements regimen includes various exercises, such as bending over to touch your toes (the hamstring stretch).  But rather than working to actually touch your toes (i.e., becoming more flexible), you’ll strive to increase the range of pain-free motion.
  • Most people experience discomfort when they put their body or a limb into positions they seldom assume.  This regimen will require some of those movements, from a starting position to one approaching, but not into, the uncomfortable range at full extension.
  • Movement activity should feel comfortable; otherwise, you’ll contrive a way to stop doing it.  You might be able to go briefly in and out of discomfort, but sustainability requires you to hypothetically hold a position indefinitely, without discomfort.  

More Preliminaries.  Discomfort means you are forcing a stretch, instead of relaxing into it (see the power scale below).  Whenever you feel discomfort, back off on power until it goes away.  Then use subtle movements to play with the onset of discomfort and, thereby, reduce it.

  • Most of the movement positions in this regimen focus on several stress points, i.e., specific muscles and tendons.  See about feeling each stress point with equal intensity, without letting intensity rise above the comfortable level (see the intensity scale above). 
  • As you move your body, be aware of the possibility of injury, which is a different sort of discomfort (see the injury scale above).  It’s okay to be injured as long as the pain you’re experiencing doesn’t rise above the tender level.  Never move through the pain of injury.
  • Tilt and Trust.  With most leg stretches, you can increase or decrease tension near the full range of motion by shifting your hips forward and back—called tilt and thrust.  Tilting your hips creates a curve in your lower back, thrusting reduces or flattens the curve.  

Three Final Preliminaries.  Effective posture is held together by a strong, tight core.  With every movement, see about tightening your core muscles as though someone was about to punch you in the gut.  Also, hold your body erect, as though you were marching in a military parade.

  • How Much to Do.  With each exercise, begin with one set of six repetitions.  Depending on your strength and susceptibility to injury, you may add one repetition per workout (or per week, or per month) until you reach 10 repetitions.  Sustainability is paramount!
  • Continue practising until each of the following exercises becomes habitual and enjoyable.  The goal is to feel good about your regimen so you’ll look forward to doing it because it makes your body feel good and it invigorates your mind.
  • Your body should be in charge, not your mind.  If you go too hard for too long, your body remembers and it will tighten the relevant muscles so you can’t go that far next time.  That’s why it’s important to always relax the muscles you want to stretch.  

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