A few weeks ago we told you about Rolfing. Now, High50 has discovered another way of staying young – but it’s still to do with making sure our fascia is in great shape – with an updated form of Resistance Stretching called Moving Stretch.
To remind you all what fascia is: it’s a type of connective tissue that runs from head to feet, holding everything in place. Though it’s been of great importance all along, fascia has been largely ignored till recently. Now there are books, studies and conferences devoted to it, all of which indicates that it is now recognised to be central to our health. When you want to improve your body, working on the tissue that gives the body its structure is a very sensible thing to do.
Last week High50 visited Triyoga in Soho to experience Moving Stretch with therapist Suzanne Wylde, whose book on the subject will be published next year. Suzanne originally trained in Boston with the creator of Resistance Stretching, Bob Cooley and from there created her own method, Moving Stretch®. ‘I saw a need for a simple, accessible, easy-to-learn-and-use system of Resistance Stretching,’ Suzanne told me. ‘Moving Stretches powerfully affect the fascia to release and transform your body.’
Like Resistance Stretching, Moving Stretch has two key elements, resistance and movement. The resistance comes from tensing your muscles and the movement from moving your limbs or torso (or both) in a certain way for each stretch, whilst maintaining that tension. You resist in order to engage the fascia and then you move in order to recondition and stretch the fascia.
The first thing Suzanne did was photograph me before asking me to lie face-down on a soft mattress on the floor. No need for undressing. She then put on a pair of clean and walked up and down my back. It was surprisingly relaxing as I felt all the knots of tension smooth out with Suzanne’s powerful pressure. I then turned over and she used her feet to stretch out my chest – many people over 50 are be round-shouldered or hunched which means their chest tends to cave inwards and thus the fascia and muscles shorten. Then came the hard part – I got up and lay on her bed and she made me resist her as she pushed my arm or leg in one direction or another. It was hard work but afterwards my shoulders were visibly lower than they were. I felt physically drained but my body felt looser and more flexible.
‘So many people walk in through my door, inflexible, stiff, bent over, out of balance, and out of alignment, who have never really understood how to stretch in a way that is effective and satisfying for them,’ says Suzanne, who had experienced a similar condition. ‘I know very well what it feels like to have a body that feels intractable, plank-like, unyielding, embarrassing in yoga classes. When I discovered stretching with resistance I experienced immediate benefits in my posture and a delicious freedom of movement in my body. Resistance stretching works on the fascia as well as the muscles; not only to increase flexibility, but to strengthen and recondition the body.’
Suzanne’s mantra is, ‘Flexibility helps you to adapt to the world and all the s**t that comes your way. Strength gives you the resilience to stand your ground and stand up for what you believe in. A strong and flexible body = a force to be reckoned with’. She is convinced Moving Stretch is particularly effective for the over 50’s: ‘Active people over 50 have great quality tissue, due to the body having being shaped by years of exercise,’ she explains. ‘Common issues are hunching and focal areas of tightness or weakness. I believe both are caused by the struggle to fit balanced exercise into busy schedules. Many of my older clients support others and don’t take time for themselves and they’d benefit greatly from having a regular stretching session to work the tension out of their bodies and calm their nervous systems. Moving Stretch seems to make us more resilient emotionally so it really helps people who have a lot of demands on their time and emotional resources’.
Suzanne believes that many of the aches and pains people believe are just the inevitable consequences of ageing are more likely to be caused by accumulated tension and limiting movement patterns: ‘If we moved in a limited way that shapes the fascia and makes it too tight so that it holds us in the wrong position and pulls us down. Having tight fascia is a bit like wearing clothes that are too small so you’re only able to move in any direction with a lot of effort. When fascia pulls us down it’s a bit like wearing a heavy backpack, except it can also pull on our head and faces as well as our shoulders.’
Suzanne has seen her 50+ clients gain improved posture and more responsive and powerful movements. ‘They also feel restored and more grounded, more themselves, even getting the sparkle back in their eyes,’ she says. ‘Using these stretches should make you feel lighter, stronger and more flexible, graceful, upright and empowered.’
Here are two moving stretches from her forthcoming book:
The key is always to have tension in your muscles and always be moving. Don’t hold the stretch at the end or push through any pain and always consult your doctor before stretching if you have a physical or health issue.
Sitting Abductor Squeeze
Sitting with your knees bent in front of chest and your feet together, place your arms around your legs and clasp your hands. As your knees push out continuously, your arms straighten and squeeze in to stretch your abductors. Return easily to the start and repeat, the knees moving together and out again once is one rep. Do 5-7 reps in one set.
Lat stretch at desk
Put your hands down on a desk, parallel, on their sides and facing each other, about one hand span apart. Whilst continuously pulling your hands down into the desk, lower your torso towards the floor, keeping your arms straight. Only go as far as you can comfortably and then return easily to the starting position.
Do not lean forward onto your hands, but keep all the weight on your front leg. They key is to move smoothly away from the table as you go down, in order to feel a lengthening in the back and shoulders as you stretch. Keep pulling down into the table continuously. Also, do not worry if you cannot lower your torso until it is parallel with the floor, just go as far as you can without discomfort. Do 5-7 reps in one set.
Moving Stretch: Stretch Your Fascia to Free Your Body by Suzanne Wylde. Lotus Publishing, RRP £16.27 will be available in January 2017, and it is on Amazon to preorder here.
Suzanne Wylde offers assisted stretching sessions at Triyoga Camden, £80 for 1 hour or £110 for 90 mins. Classes are also available, information at: www.movingstretch.com.