Pilates, yoga, and barre classes have already gone mainstream. Will stretching classes be next? We had the pleasure of talking to Hakika DuBose, owner of Power Stretch Studios and creator of the KIKA Method, about all things stretching. Here’s what you need to know about stretching and dedicated “Assisted Stretching” classes.
Dynamic versus passive stretching
Long and lean is all the rage these days (hence the popularity of barre and yoga); both have roots in dynamic movements. Dynamic stretching is performed by moving through a challenging, but comfortable, range of motion. Benefits include improving functional range of motion and mobility in sports and activities for daily living.
Most of the stretching DuBose uses is passive, which means there is an outside force (the coaches) helping to add the stretch. “The difference between this and yoga is the following: In yoga you are holding your body in positions and tensing up the muscles in the body, your muscles are not truly relaxed,” says DuBose. “Even while people sleep, they hold their body in tense and awkward positions.”
What happens at a stretching class?
At Power Stretch Studios, class sessions are customized according to each person’s needs and capabilities: men, women, or athletes. The sports specific sessions help enhance the player’s performance.
“The instructors are heavily involved in each session as they manipulate the clients body, while they lie limp and relaxed. The coach allows you to stretch further than you could ever stretch on your own,” said DuBose. With the coach’s assistance, you move through a series of gentle, probing stretches. Because you’re limp during assisted stretching, your coaches can help guide your body beyond its natural point of resistance.
You won’t get these lengthening benefits with yoga, because, unlike assisted stretching, your muscles work throughout the practice. “You can be very flexible, but still hold a tremendous amount of tension in your body that can create negative effects like added stress, poor circulation, discomfort and fatigue,” said DuBose. “We had a woman come into our studio who was a avid yoga student and very flexible; she stretched a total of 8 inches during her session.”
Benefits of a stretching class
Relaxation is just the beginning. Consistent stretching relieves joint stiffness and improves your range of motion, making everyday tasks easier. Because your muscles are linked from head to toe, when one muscle is tight, it affects other areas of your body. Stretching prevents and corrects those muscle imbalances.
By stretching all major muscle groups, you’ll have balanced flexibility throughout your body, which improves your posture, relieves pain, and maximizes your body’s efficiency.
Dr. Simon Floreani, chiropractor and Ambassador for Allied Health and Prevention, tells Body + Soul that other benefits of stretching include the ability to exercise longer, getting better sleep, and diminishing your chances of injury.
What to keep in mind
Dynamic stretching is ideal prior to exercise to prepare the joints for movement, whereas a more static stretch may actually inhibit the muscle’s ability to fire. So, if you’re using stretching as a warm up, stick to dynamic stretching.
If you can’t make it to a stretch class, or there aren’t any stretch studios in your area, by all means stretch solo. The effects won’t be as dramatic as they would be in a stretching class, but some are better than none.