Yoga Journal

In an old but very good article, “In Defense of Stretching,” Jean Couch cited many good reasons for stretching in a way that maintains normal joint mobility. In other words, stretch with proper alignment and with no bouncing. You’ll feel better, gain strength, and function optimally!

I’ve been reading Mukunda Stiles’ book Structural Yoga Therapy, and honed in today on postural imbalances. Stiles maintains these imbalances are best corrected in a gradual, systematic way. He suggests relaxing/strengthening of the major skeletal muscles through 24 fundamental poses, and underscores the need for stretching with a summary of Jean’s article:
  1. Muscle contraction stimulates its neurological brain—the muscle spindle—to define the muscle’s resting length. Unless movements go through complete range of motion in an aligned manner, the muscle spindle resets the joint into a restricted position.
  2. Stretching allows muscles to relax and receive increased blood flow and oxygen.
  3. When injury or imbalanced physical activity hinders a joint’s mobility, other joints make postural compensations.
  4. Tight muscles on one side of a joint create weak opposing muscles (antagonists) on the other side of the joint.
  5. These tight muscles pull the body out of alignment from the ideally balanced “anatomical position.”
  6. A muscle that is too tight loses its power due to less mobility.
  7. Ligaments, having no inherent contractile property, need full joint motions to maintain their integrity.
  8. Random tightness diminishes the stretch reflex and the body therefore loses its efficient functioning.
  9. Internal organs dependent upon vascular flow may not perform optimally as a result of structural misalignments.*
Visit Jean Couch’s Balance Center and learn more about how yoga can bring complete balance to the body in Mukunda Stiles’ Yoga Therapy Center.
* Jean Couch, “In Defense of Stretching,” Yoga Journal, July/August, 1983, pp.11-12. Also, Mukunda Stiles, Structural Yoga Therapy, c2000 Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC San Francisco, CA.