Those of you who are my regular clients already know not to expect a traditional Swedish massage, but when a first-time massage client comes through they might be surprised by the different stretching techiques that they recieve on the table. I have extensive training in Thai Yoga massage and have recently taken a workshop on an integrated stretching approach called I-Stretch. During my myofascial release massage sessions, I make use of different assisted stretches, integrating a bit of Thai massage right on the table. Those of you who have experienced my work know that the stretches feel good and that when you get up from the table, you experience an ease in the body that was absent before. But, how does assisted stretching work?
When I was reading through my latest issue of Massage Magazine, I came across an interesting article called, “Fascial Stretch Therapy.” In it, author Chris Frederick creates a new model for discussing flexibility, which he discusses as adaptability rather than as range of motion. He defines flexibilty as:
…a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual state of readinesss to adapt to new, different or changing requirements that challenge us and then to successfully recover, refreshed and ready to adapt again.
The focus of the assisted stretching that I do is to locate and slowly release barriers in the tissue. The work, like myofascial release work in general, is slow-paced and gentle and works to allow the body to reclaim its abilty to move with ease. This myofascial stretching approach releases scar tissue, relieves joint stiffness by increasing the space in the joint capsule, increasing blood flow to the tissues, helps relieve muscle tightness, and remarkedly improves posture, according to Frederick. In addition to these structural benefits, this work can also improve a client’s balance and coordination, improve their sleep, decrease pain, and calm the nervous system.
As with all my work, the emphasis is to stretch and release the myofascia, rather than just the muscles. The myofacia is a three-dimensional web of fascia or connective tissue that spans the entire body, from skin to core, including organs and cells. Any restriction within this myofascial web can affect other areas of the body in the same manner that pulling on a single piece of yarn might distort an entire sweater. The assisted stretching is a perfect companion to the hands-on myofascial release work, leading to a harmonious session with lasting benefits.
To your health and adaptability,
Theresa Zink, LMT