Flexibility Exploration

Greater flexibility and range of motion often promote a greater sense of comfort and freedom in movement. The degree of physical mobility is usually indicative of mental lucidity or lack thereof. Since everything is interconnected in the human being, you cannot attain mental flexibility without addressing physical flexibility and vice versa. Can you claim to be a relaxed person if you hold tension in your body?

Paradoxically, many people associate stretching with greater flexibility. There are various popular methods and programs promising improvement of flexibility through stretching. First of all, when exploring your flexibility, bear in mind that Qi Dao does not teach you to stretch your muscles or other tissues. When temporarily stretched, the muscles will act almost like rubber bands, tightening up as soon as they are allowed to. This is called "stretch reflex." It challenges many athletes, martial artists and Yoga enthusiasts puzzled by the inadequate results of their stretching exercises despite their formidable efforts to improve flexibility. Instead of stretching, Qi Dao suggests lengthening your muscles. Literally opposite to the way stretching works, lengthening involves shortening the muscle and making it tired of being short before allowing it to lengthen thereby expanding the range of motion and flexibility.

At this point, let s take a brief excursion into one of the finer principles of Qi Dao practice in order to establish the groundwork for the following investigation of lengthening. Imagine for a moment a muscle that you would like to make more flexible. It may remind you of a rubber band - elastic and resilient. Some muscles may be stretchier, others are stiffer. What response can you expect from an inflexible tissue if you start to pull it by the opposite ends? Not unlike the rubber band, it will most likely rebound and shorten after being forcefully stretched - this is stretch reflex in action. The more you try to pull the poor muscle, the stronger it will fight against such a heavy-handed approach. This should shed light on the meager, if not disappointing progress of those who try to improve flexibility using stretching. This example should also suggest an alternative, less invasive way to work with tense muscles. If you have been doing something that did not bring you the desirable results, consider doing something different.

Imagine being able to communicate with the muscle so that it can tell you how it feels and what it wants. If it is sore and tense, maybe it is trying to tell you that it wants to experience something, perhaps, being shorter? With all due respect, you may have to oblige and assist that part of yourself in manifesting its dream, whatever it may be. In fact, you may regard your entire being as a sum total of different parts that are constantly dreaming of something.

This may remind you of interpersonal relationships. The more you help others in manifesting their dreams, the more they will assist you in manifesting yours. Similarly, the more you assist your muscles, organs and other parts of your organism in manifesting their dreams, the more they will support you in manifesting yours. Besides, would it not just feel great to enjoy being in a happy and healthy body?

How can you help a tense muscle manifest its dream? You may start by measuring the level of well-being of that body part. Subjectively assess it on the scale from zero to one hundred, where the top of the scale equals a 100% healthy state. It is crucial to measure well-being rather than pain or suffering, because your consciousness will begin creating pictures of the condition you are measuring thus promoting that condition.

If the part of your body in question is at 60% level of well-being due to tension, explore your ability to change it, say to 50%, by tensing it up a little more. That is right, instead of forcing it to relax or subjecting it to stretching; you are letting it do what it wants to do at the moment - tense up.

If you have any chronic tension, you may not really know how tense you are until you experiment with tensing up more and then releasing extra tension. Sometimes the habit of tension is so ingrained in the autonomous nervous system that you may think you are relaxed when you are actually holding tension, which exemplifies miscommunication. You can start reconnecting with various parts of yourself that you want to reconnect with by sending commands to increase tension. You will almost immediately receive feedback - signals of greater discomfort and/or pain - reporting that attention is needed there.

The first difference between stretching and lengthening is in the initial action. Stretching begins with pulling the opposite ends of the muscle apart from each other, while lengthening begins with making it shorter. When the muscle is allowed to shorten, with or without tensing up more, its first response may be bewilderment. If it could speak it might say, "Do you truly mean it? Will you really let me shorten instead of stretching me against my resistance?" Your muscle will soon recognize that it does not have to be tense to feel better. When your central nervous system realizes that it no longer has to be tense, it will start letting go. Interestingly enough, as soon as you stop sending signals of tension, it will be able to become more relaxed than it used to be, at the same time lengthening naturally.

As soon as lengthening begins, it may induce a sigh of release, which would indicate to a skilled Qi Dao practitioner that the body-mind is ready to let go of the internal issues that were causing the external tension. As you pay attention to your own body language through touch and movement, you will notice that your whole body-mind responds much more favorably to lengthening of your muscles than stretching them. After a few repetitions of this maneuver, I suggest to assess your level of wellness once again. Most likely, you will find this particular part of the body resonating with 70% of well-being, if not even higher, which will naturally translate into greater relaxation and flexibility.

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