But every time someone asks me about stretching – “How much should I stretch?” “When should I stretch?” “How can I stretch my (insert muscle name here, or just say ‘hamstrings’) – and I answer, I get this crazy look. Like I’ve just said something startling, even incomprehensible.
People seldom challenge me. I think most of them realize, on some level, that all their stretching hasn’t really changed anything. Stretching can feel frustrating and pointless. People stretch and stretch and then feel like a failure the next day, when they seem to start back at the same place.
My amazing colleague Todd Hargrove, who is a physical therapist and Feldenkrais teacher in Seattle, has done a great job discussing the stretching question in a blog post that you can see by clicking here. He writes: “The hamstring by itself is just a piece of meat. It is the nervous system that decides whether the hamstring will shorten or lengthen, and whether it feels stiff or painful when doing so.”
Educating yourself about how your brain and nervous system control your function, and how stretching works (or doesn’t) is worth your time. You may find you end up with more time. Hopefully, you’ll spend some of your new found time working with yourself. You might even consider lengthening your hamstrings the Feldenkrais way.
And just in case you don’t read Todd’s article to the end, I agree with him that not all stretching is a waste of time. Sometimes stretching is a mindfulness practice; an opportunity to notice how you are moving and feeling. And noticing yourself, in a deep way, is almost always a good thing.