Slowing Down: Restorative Stretching
Updated: Mar 7, 2022
Restorative Stretching, at least the way I teach it, is about holding stretches for likely longer than you usually would. That will be different for everyone, but as a comparison, I work with a lot of athletes who hold stretches for about 20-40 seconds and when I introduce restorative stretching I recommend 1-3 minutes. Spending more time in the stretch gives your soft tissue a chance to more fully stretch open, which can help prevent injuries and improve nervous system regulation. There are a few important tips that help make the experience restorative as you can see in my video example.
Use micro movements. When you are holding a stretch for this long, do not stay still. Small movements and adjustments are needs to stretch deeper and increase you body awareness.
Use props. Use soft and hard props to support you. The goal is not to see how deep of a stretch you can get unassisted. The goal is to focus on calming the body and gently softening it.
Focus on your breath, connecting it to your movements. Your exhale will help you out immensely. Each time you are ready to go deeper, do so on your exhale. Your breath regulation is actually your one non-negotiable prop.
Stretch to the point of discomfort not pain. Focus on stretching only to the point of discomfort, not to the point of pain. In this experience, I consider starting to feel anxious or stressed even if you “can handle it” as pain, as the point is to calm and soften both the body and the mind in order to achieve the attended benefits.
Soften all other parts of your body that are not being stretched. Other parts of the body commonly want to help the part of the body that is stretching, which is counterproductive to relaxing into the stretch. Check with the other parts to ensure they are soft and not feeling even discomfort. If the parts of your body you are not stretching are uncomfortable that is a signal that you need to change positions or props. When not stretching them, common muscles to check in on that always want to "help" are the jaw, forehead, neck, and hands.
Want to practice restorative stretching and other restorative movements to help you improve your physical abilities and better manage your stress? Get a group together and request a private group restorative movement class with me.