Whether it’s physical, emotional or interpersonal, being flexible has many advantages in life. Flexibility in attitude helps marriages grow and evolve. Interpersonally and professionally it makes communication more diverse, open and productive. And physically, it provides us with the freedom to move. It’s the antidote to being stuck, restricted and rigid, both literally and figuratively, in mind, body, heart and soul.
So, as we look ahead to Valentine’s Day, consider stretching with your spouse as a fun way to celebrate love. It’s a great opportunity to connect to yourself, and with your partner, both physically and emotionally. You can spice things up as much or as little as you like – lingerie, music, candlelight, with clothes or without. Not that you need Valentine’s Day to stretch with your partner, but it is a day that focuses on romance, so why not?
Before you start though, there are a few things worth noting:
First, consider that stretching something means to elongate it. To master that you need to find – and feel – two things in your body: 1) your pelvis and 2) your energy. That said, “finding and feeling” is not enough. You also need to learn how to articulate and direct them both from within.
For most people, the pelvis is tight, stuck and fairly immobile. But you need it because the muscles that cross over the hips are either at the bottom of a stretch for the upper body, or the top of a stretch for the lower body. In other words, if you move your pelvis, you invariably reach muscles in an incredibly efficient way. This way has the power to effectively stretch the muscles in your whole body from end-to-end.
Also, for most people, there is a disconnect between the energy in their bodies and how they use it. This is perhaps the biggest obstacle to increasing flexibility. But, it doesn’t have to be. When you get control of this energy, it enables you to exert tension at one end of a muscle so you can pull the other end away. Between those two points is where the deepest stretch occurs.
Now, with that in mind, you can practice with you partner and learn together how to apply these concepts.
Try something as simple and sitting on the floor back-to-back with your legs out in front of you. Start by feeling your spine and back muscles against your partner’s. Then, articulate your spine to lengthen it – head to ceiling, sit bones into the floor. You should feel your lower backs lose contact and your middle and upper backs gain more contact as the muscles engage. Continue using the energy in those muscles to press against one another. As you exert that gentle pressure, press the backs of your knees down into the floor. Hold them there and flex your feet. You’ll notice you have multiple things working and stretching at the same time – your back (connected to your pelvis), and your whole leg from top to bottom.
Another stretch you can try is to stand face-to-face holding onto each other’s elbows (your forearms will overlap). Then round your backs, pulling your tailbone way under and leaning away from one another. Find the energy in your belly and use it to pull your tailbone under even more (by sucking it in as hard as you can). As you feel the stretch increase, pull your shoulders forward and feel how nicely it “opens up” your back.
There are many ways to apply these principles to stretching, alone or in pairs. Have some fun and experiment. Just remember, your energy and your pelvis have everything to do with how you move, and that movement is how you get the most out of your stretch.
Donna Flagg is a dancer and author. She created Lastics, a technique born from the world of dance and designed to help people improve their flexibility. Her stretch classes have been offered at Joffrey Ballet School (NY), Joffrey Academy of Dance (Chicago), Broadway Dance Center, NJ Dance Center and New York Health and Racquet Club. She is also a regular featured guest at Cal-a-Vie Health Spa in San Diego, California.