Self Stretching

Definition: Straightening or extending ones body or a part of ones body to its full length without the assistance of someone else

Starting Point

Make sure you are engaging your core and maintain good posture. If you ignore your posture and go straight into a stretch you might end up stretching the wrong muscles and could be effecting other muscles in a negative way by straining and putting them in unnatural positions, possibly causing new aches and pains.

*While stretching continue to breathe. Holding your breathe does not help the stretch it only creates an unnatural effect depriving your body of oxygen it requires to perform any physical action including the stretch you are attempting.

Breathing Properly:

-Concentrate on steady normal breaths. Exaggerating each breath does not

Improve anything and could in fact increase shoulder tension

-Inhale through your nose, while exhaling through your mouth

push deeper into the stretch


*Typically as you begin to stretch you will feel a moment of slight resistance in the muscle being stretched. This is called a barrier. There are typically three barriers to reach while stretching one single muscle. These are points where the stretch needs to be held until the existing barrier releases and you can then move on to the next barrier. Sometimes these barriers can be very subtle and may not be physically visible as a significant amount of movement to anyone but the individual who is feeling the difference in the stretch.

*At the first barrier stop and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Then continue stretching till you reach the next barrier hold for 30 seconds. Once completed continue to stretch to the third and final barrier and hold for 30 seconds.

*Set a routine for yourself. Stretching is not something that cures tight muscles over night. Training for a marathon is not done over one weekend. Loosing weight is not something that you attempt to do a few times every two weeks and expect results. Like any physical activity, stretching requires consistency and long-term use to produce results. Start your goals off small. Do a specific stretch three times daily (each time including all three barriers) twice a day for a week. You can change the intensity or frequency depending how you feel at the end of the week.

What Not to Do

*No ballistic movements during a stretch: this means any extra movements like swaying or bouncing of the body or limb being stretched. The stretch should be as still and pure as possible.

 Mary Houle works at Natural Balance on Friday, Sundays and selected other days. To read more about her work as a massage therapist click here.