RESTORATIVE-YIN YOGA involves supported body/mind relaxation. This is gentle, gentle yoga that promotes deep relaxation for stress reduction while also stretching and rehabilitating connective tissue.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stretch & Relax

Copyright Lance Kinseth, Supta Virasana, 2012

STRETCHING AND RELAXING—It is nearly this simple: stretch and relax, and continue to stretch, and flexibility is optimized.  But “stretching” is typically associated with pain rather than relaxation.  If you train in some facility where sports are emphasized, you are likely to find almost no one stretching even though it is considered to be essential.  Athletes sit down into a “hurdle stretch” and, after a few minutes, either give up or believe that they have “stretched.”  And a few minutes of stretching is basically worthless.  Some time needs to be spent both stretching and holding positions and relaxing to optimize flexibility.

The key need for incorporating stretching into bodywork is to make it a process of relaxation and kindness to oneself.  Cats and dogs stretching in the morning do not hurt themselves.

Popular modern yoga may be a quick sun salutation “flow” from one pose to another, and may reflect the tendency in sport fitness to not hold poses

Stretching and relaxing in yoga stresses two simple components:
  • Holding poses, [holding can be further optimized by doing sequences related poses], and
  • Using breath to expand [often on inhale] and release [often on exhale].

How is this relaxing?  You go into the pose and listen for the places of tension in the body, but do not push the tension further.  Initially, the sense organs in muscles and tendons cue the tissue to contract to keep from stretching too far.  However, when the pose is held but not forced to expand, the sense organs cue the tissue to release a little at a time, stretching the tissue.  [See Islands Of Grace, “Holding Poses & Spindle Release,” 2/18/12, for details.]  Breath is intentionally used to expand the hold [typically on an inhale] and to then release or relax and stretch further [typically on an exhale].

Stretching and relaxing can offer more than just a way to optimize flexibility and overall suppleness and proportionality of the body that results from being able to hold the pose.  While such gains can be remarkable, they are really secondary to the heart process of yoga.  When stretching also becomes a process of relaxation, the body stills and calms.  The orientation shifts from controlling the body to freeing the body.  This provokes an opportunity for yoga to open a pathway to deep body, deep listening and study and meditation that goes to the heart of yoga, and that has been the core objective for yoga for 5000 years. 

(1) Calm/still,
(2) relax,
(3) open awareness, and
(4) transform.

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