Let’s just admit. There’s one part of our fitness regime that most of us are probably neglecting a little more than we’d like to admit. We generally do all the right things. We squeeze in those evening weight sessions, pound the treadmill for some early morning HIIT and power through Pilates after a mad dash from work. While we definitely deserve kudos for all our great efforts, there’s one little thing our bodies needs a whole lot more of and could make all the difference the next time we squat, sprint, side plank or even sit – and that’s stretching.
And while stretching by ourselves is great, if you’re struggling (like moi) to make sure you do it, assisted stretching might be the answer to fitting it into your active lifestyle. Keen to experience it for myself, I headed over to Stretch Studio, Australia’s first one-to-one professional assisted stretching experience.
Unsure of what to expect and eager to learn about more about benefits of assisted stretching, I chatted to Lisa Lawson, manager of the newly opened Stretch Studio.
“Assisted stretching follows the same principle as static stretching, but involves an element that assists a person to move into a stretch end position. Such assistance can simply be a wall or door frame which is used as a stabilisation point. It can also be a second person that guides the movement into the stretch position and that applies controlled pressure, as well as a band that pulls the intended body part into the end position,” explained Lisa.
“Benefits include an increased range of motion, meaning you can go further into end positions. They also reduce pain and relieve stiffness, allowing you to move better, stand straighter, improve athletic skill, prevent injuries, increase mobility and your range of motion, sleep better and reduce stress.”
The studio set-up was sort of reminiscent to that of a massage therapist’s. There were several beds with foam rollers and straps all lined up in a row with a flexologist at each one. All the flexologists are trained by Dr Peter Bablis and possess longstanding professional backgrounds in varying fitness industries from dance to athletics. My flexologist was Katie, a lovely soul and qualified yoga instructor with many years of teaching under her belt.
Katie greeted me warmly and instructed me to lie on the bed and relax. The stretch session commenced at the legs, with one quad strapped down on the bed to allow the other leg to lift and hips to open without taking the whole body with it. Ultra attentive, Katie explained that she would gently and slowly delve into each stretch and stop when I signified that I had reached the “edge”, otherwise known as the deepest stretch I could safely tolerate before veering into pain territory!
The session commenced with lengthening the hamstrings and quads, with Katie gently guiding and holding my leg in multiple positions, creating a resistance against the leg to allow for a deep yet safe stretch. It felt similar to what I might do with a resistance band or a yoga strap, except that I found I breathed better and could relax more with the assisted push and pull, which made it easier to go that little bit further in each stretch.
The best part for me was definitely the hip opening stretch (a very hard one to do by yourself), where the flexologist places both hands against the hip bones and uses a firm pressure to press downwards and outwards to encourage the natural external rotation we tend to lose after sitting in an office all day.
After both legs had taken turns being strapped down and led into varying stretches to target everything from hip to hem, Katie told me to turn over and lie on my tummy so we could stretch out my back, neck and pecs. Much like the hips, the best part was definitely the opening of the pecs (a highly under stretched part for most of us!) and the loosening of the neck (always oh-so tense).
The whole process was incredibly relaxing, and almost meditative, thanks in part to the good vibes of my lovely yogi-meets-flexologist, Katie. The fact that I could just sort of melt into each one with no effort on my part definitely helped me not only genuinely relax, but also get more out of the experience than I would have had I simply stretched on my own.
Post stretch verdict? Stiff and sore on arrival, relaxed and revived on departure – 20 minutes was too short!
Images supplied by Stretch Studio