Sunday, February 24, 2008


One of the ideas that has helped me a lot in stretching is having a specific goal. If you stretch for general flexibility, that is good, but you will find your program will feel "flat" after a period of time. That is when most folks stop stretching.

I recommend having a specific goal (to be able to get into lotus, splits, plow) as the carrot dangling in front of you. If the goal is to get into lotus, for example, after attempting the position, you will realize the limitations involved. Now, you have something to work for, and work at. You can find all the stretches (not just lotus) that stretch various muscle groups to allow you to get into the position. You will find your own "workarounds" that allow you to realize your goal. For example, I found that really, really, working on my hamstring stretches, allowed me to get into lotus. My "workaround" was to spend DOUBLE the time stretching my hamstrings before attempting lotus. I spent weeks at my "workaround" before pushing myself into lotus. I still like to do that!
PS: the "workaround" is not a license to do a stretch incorrectly until you get it right (for example, in a seated hamstring stretch to let your head hang, your back curve over, your leg bent. ) The workaround is picking associated stretches and doing them correctly.

So, make a goal, find your limitations, and you will find your stretching will improve tenfold!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Got any peaceful easy feelings yet?

Hey, a few days have gone by since I suggested to readers out there to take up the stretch for peace exercise.

Anybody feeling peaceful yet? Anybody? Anybody? Ferris?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Revisting Pain

Let us take a look at what pain is. Basically, pain is a signal to the brain that something is not correct with what is going on in your experience. For example, you touch a hot stove, the pain you feel alerts you to the fact that skin tissue is about to be damaged. As a learned response, we retract our hand from the stove. (How do we know that is a learned response? A drunkard will do all kinds of things that hurts him while he is under the influence of alcohol. The state of drunkardness allows parts of the nervous system to forget what it learned. This is verified in the fact that there is a published blood alcohol level, at which levels we know when driving, motor function, and decision making, is impaired).

In regard to body pains from stretching and exercising, there are different benchmarks as to what is a bad pain (injury, tear) from what is a beneficial pain (being sore from stretching to a new limit, microtearing muscle fibers so they are replaced by longer, stronger, more flexible fibers).
That said, if someone takes off in a quick run down the street, and all of sudden, there is a searing pain in the hamstring, they have pulled (ie torn) the muscle beyond its elastic limits. You should not go home and stretch that muscle. Ice, rest, elevation, massage, are indicated in such a case (but not limited to those treatments). Let's say the pain in this case is an 8 out of 10.

Now, if someone takes a yoga class and comes home with sore hamstrings, you have a different issue. The hamstring is elongated, there are microtears in the connective tissue, and when repaired by the body, the muscle will be much improved in resiliency and flexibility. You can go home and stretch that muscle later that day or the next. Let's say the pain is a 3 out of 10.

But what if the pain is the same in the two cases? Let's say in the first case , the pulled muscle is mild, and the pain is a 5 on a scale of 10.
Let's say in the second case (the yoga class) the exertion was more than usual and the yoga student had a lot of pain in the hamstrings. The pain is also a 5 out of 10.

Well, now you have to differentiate between pains. Knowing how each occured is primary. You should probably rest both, but you can return to stretching quicker from the yoga overexertion because the injury happened at slow speeds. If you try to run fast again, as in the first case, the pull you get will most likely be worse. If you try to stretch the yoga injury it will not hurt near as bad as the pulled hamstring from running fast, even if the pains are both level 5.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

DVD's and some Tech notes

A couple of bits of info:

I have been working on migrating to a better server. This will not affect viewers, it is just an update to make it easier on my end here.

I have a DVD coming up, "Correcting Posture Through Stretching". It is finished, completed, and we are in the process of making copies. This will be available in the next few weeks if everything goes as planned. I will have a run of about 100, so if you want to reserve one, Email me.

In the next few months there will be several other DVDs by me. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Stretch for Peace, Pt 3, the challenge!

Ok, I can write blogs about stretching all day and all night, but this morning I have an idea. Let's take this idea of how stretching can benefit your health, and make your life more peaceful, off the blackboard and into practice. For you. Today. Right now.
  • Take one stretch off my website, It can be one you can already do well, one you have not tried yet, a stretch you have been working on but still find difficult. Whatever. Just pick ONE.
  • Now, pick two times during the day where you can devote five minutes to practicing this stretch only. Say, 7AM, and 3PM. Maybe 10 AM, 9PM. Does not matter, pick two times. No other stretches, or exercises. No warmups.
  • For five uninterrupted minutes, practice your chosen stretch. No background music, no TV on in the room. Work on feeling your muscles, what is tight, what releases. Pay attention to your body. Breath into your belly. Relax the tension.
  • Will you feel more centered and peaceful? Try this for ONE WEEK. Deal? Tell me about your experiences, either post to the blog or send me an Email

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Stretch for Peace, Pt.2, practical example!

This week was interesting. While my wife and I were walking our dog, he was attacked by another dog. This is the second time by the same dog, and yes, the other owners need to address the issue. But that is another topic. Last May, when the dog attacked (appx 60 lb Dalmation), my dog Indy got in front of me, and, having never been in a fight before, proceeded to bark and make noise, while the other dog went for his throat. Indy defended himself well with his big paws, knocking the other dog around, but had his neck punctured, and had bloody rear paws from pushing off the ground. The other dog was off leash, and has attacked at least five other dogs that we know of (post our attack, neighbors came to find out how Indy was)

Tuesday, the other dogs' owner was riding her bike with the dog attached to a zip lead to her handlebars. They were a block away. My wife told me to hustle, we were on the cross street and wanted to get out of view of her dog. Indy and I got out of view. Next, my wife told me to run! The dalmation pulled his owner off her bike, and broke free. I made it two more houses and the dog was on us. I got into a cat stance (from karate, this is where you take weight off the front leg to use it to kick). My move was instinctive, from 34 years of martial arts. I lifted my leg to kick the dog, but he was WAY quicker than I could imagine, and I only succeeded in glancing him around to behind us. As he launched at Indy, Indy pulled back off his collar, and the fight began. Indy went round, with a lot more effort than last time, he knows this dog is dangerous.

I tried to break it up. I did not want to kick, I was afraid I would hit Indy, and he kept running in front of me. I pushed, pulled, yelled and kicked, and next thing you know, I was on the ground. My wife told me I was on top of the dalmation when I fell, he got underneath me. Snapping jaws everywhere. When I was on the ground, I kicked under Indy's legs, pushed the dalmation back a few feet. Indy was in between us. At that point, the dalmation went to leap at Indy, but Indy perceived the attack was at me!

Game over. Indy knocked the other dog on his back, bit him up his underside until he got to the dog's neck, then slammed the dog into the concrete next to me. I was on my side next to the dalmation, Indy had him by the neck. The owner finally shows up (took at least two or three minutes, she had to run up hill one tenth of a mile!), and we get them apart. This is not totally the end of the story, but I will cut to the stretch part now!

Needless to say the fight or flight mechanism worked very well indeed for my self and my dog. Later in the morning, I could feel the muscles that were activated and on guard. I sat on the ground and stretched and found muscles to be sore. I really didn't want to stretch, actually, but did anyway. As I released the tension in the muscles from the attack, I felt separate from the whole incident, it had a surreal quality to it.
Oh, you can see Indy here: Indy

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Stretch for Peace, Pt 1

When I stretch, I feel more peaceful when I get done. I just want to keep stretching, actually, because it feels so good in my body, and so peaceful to my mind and emotions.

Why? Because of the mindbody connection, (see the previous blog below). We remember everything, in our bodies, our heads, and if not consciously, in some deep recess of our mind. There is so much data coming into our senses, we have to pay attention to some and ignore others.

We ignore some of the data by not paying attention to it, and some by tightening up our body. Here's a practical example for you. A few years ago, my then 82 year old mother almost died. We did not know what was going on with her. We spent all night in an emergency room, then she was released. The next night, same thing. There were no beds to admit her. Two nights later, I found her unconscious at her house, we were back in a different hospital emergency room. They still could not figure it out. It was about 2AM, and I was getting nervous that they would not admit her. I was worried she was going to die, I was fearful they were going to send her home with me again. A lot to deal with.
In the quiet of the room, I could feel my muscles in my shoulders start to burn. They were filling with lactic acid, the waste product of muscle exertion. But I was doing nothing, except feeling lots of NEGATIVE emotions. I was not outwardly expressing them, and as I watched the process, I could see how my mindybody was tightening up so I could function with my mother in her condition and the doctors, to not feel what I was feeling.
She survived, and the next day I was sore in areas that were not physically exerted, just tight from an emotional condition. Yes, I did stretch that day, to release the tension.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Mindbody connection and stretching

My Teacher often spoke of the Mindbody connection. In fact, he coined the phrase as one word, because the two are interconnected. Let's look at that.

When you feel happy, you feel it in your body. Your chair does not feel your happiness, your pillow does not feel your happiness, your body does. When you feel joy, you feel it in your body. Your car does not feel your joy. Your kitchen does not feel your joy, your body does.

When you feel angry, you feel it in your body. Your couch does not feel your anger, your computer does not feel your anger, your body feels your anger. When you feel sad, your table does not feel your sadness, your fork does not feel your sadness, your body feels your sadness. So, what we feel in our emotional body, we experience in our physical body. That's the mindbody connection related to our emotions and our physical being.

Now, the feelings of happiness, joy, love, satisfaction, are positive emotions, and the body does not tighten up to deal with them. We tend to just experience them for what they are. Positive emotions are light and feel good, so we seek to feel them again and again. True?

However, the feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, fear, are negative emotions, and the body reacts by tightening. This is a primitive way for the body to NOT FEEL those negative emotions. By and large, most people do not want to feel these emotions. So we tense to not experience them.

One of the things I find most beneficial about stretching is how it releases the tension in the body for whatever reason it is there. Whether the tightness is due to an old physical injury, lack of activity, or negative emotions, it does not matter. Strectching does not care, it does not judge, it is just a wonderful method to relax and open up the areas that are tight.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Our First Guest Instructor, Noah Williams

I am happy to announce that our first Guest Instructor is Noah Williams. Noah hails from the Big Island in Hawaii. Noah teaches Ashtanga Yoga, and is a student of Pattabhi Jois. Check it out! For those of you that don't know about the Guest Instructor program, I have invited professionals who teach yoga, fitness, martial arts, etc, to teach a favorite stretch of theirs on Its all free, and will give readers some insights to other aspects of flexibility training. If you know someone who would be interested in being a Guest Instructor, tell them to email me.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Why stretching makes you feel good

First, a travel backwards through time, please bear with me... Once upon a time, we lived in caves, hunted wild animals, spent time digging up roots and berries, and weathered extreme temperatures. Life was tough, and we dealt with it successfully. We were only motivated to really "tense" up, when there was a real threat: a dangerous animal was near, or there was an impending attack from another tribe.

So, our muscles served us well to keep us fed and warm and safe, and were only "motivated" to tense to extreme measures under a very REAL threat. Our bodies were in good shape from all the work we did just to survive.

Flashforward to today: We don't have to hunt or dig for food, we go to the supermarket. Our caves are lush and warm, with all the comforts you could ever need. Life is much easier, physically, and for the most part, we deal with it successfully. However, where we used to tense up against real threats, now we tense up against perceived threats. There are no tigers and bears, and in most of the world, we are relatively safe in our environment. When there was the threat of a tiger, we would tense, the tiger would walk away, we would relax. Now, if there is the threat of a paperwork deadline or a traffic jam, we tense, but we don't relax!!
This is why we need to stretch. Hands are tight from using keyboards, backs are sore from sitting in cars, and the one activity that does the opposite to those activities is STRETCHING.
If you get into a regular routine of stretching, you are undoing one of the stresses of modern life: tight muscles as a result of the condition we all live in.