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Flexibility Is Overrated As F*ck

Composed of a complex network of muscles, joints, and connective tissues, the human body often experiences pain in one area that may actually stem from a problem in a completely different, seemingly unrelated area. Healthcare professionals frequently use the phrase “where you think it is, it ain’t” to remind us that the root cause of pain is often not located at the site of pain itself. This phenomenon, known as referred pain, emphasizes the importance of adopting a comprehensive and holistic approach to address pain and dysfunction.

As I see it, the problem we face as practitioners is conflating the words yoga and holistic. Yup, I said it. Yoga is great for many reasons, but it is not the cure-all most instructors claim it to be. Cure by definition means to heal or restore to health. It doesn't matter if it's aspirin, foam rolling, or your favorite yoga class. If you have to repeatedly do it to feel better, it's a band-aid, not a solution. While stretching can provide temporarily relief from pain, it does not necessarily address the underlying cause. Not all forms of stretching are created equal either. Static stretching (the foundation of most yoga classes), which involves holding a muscle in a lengthened position, has its limitations when it comes to improving overall physical well-being.

While it can be beneficial for improving flexibility and temporarily relieving pain (a scant 20 minutes on average), it does not provide all the bio-mechanical stimulus that the body requires to maintain strength and kinetic integrity. For example, while stretching tight hip flexors can alleviate some discomfort from prolonged sitting, it does not address the need to strengthen the opposing hip extensors. That is why a balanced approach that includes the goals of strength, stability and motor control is essential for addressing the root causes of pain and dysfunction.

By contrast, dynamic stretching and functional movement exercises offer a more comprehensive approach to addressing the body’s interconnected nature, leading to better pain mitigation outcomes and overall mobility. Dynamic stretching involves controlled, active movements that challenge the entire kinetic chain, including muscles, joints, ligaments and neural structures.

By engaging multiple muscle groups and joints simultaneously, dynamic stretches better prepare the body for the demands of our real-world movement needs. They also reduce our risk of injury better than static stretching and help us build a body better suited for the "long haul." Additionally, dynamic stretching improves neuromuscular control, warms the body, and enhances athletic performance. Let's look at one compelling reason why:

The joint-by-joint concept developed by Functional Movement Systems (FMS) founder Gray Cook emphasizes the alternating roles of stability and mobility in the kinetic chain. While all joints of the body require a certain amount of both stability and mobility, each joint strongly favors being one or the other. Working from the ground up, the foot requires stability, the ankle requires mobility, the knee requires stability, the hip requires mobility, etc. (see figure A) By understanding these alternating needs, we can create a more robust and balanced yoga practice that favors movement pauses versus "poses."

An excellent example of the joint-by-joint concept in action can be seen in cases of knee pain. Often, knee pain is a result of dysfunction or immobility in the adjacent hip or ankle joint, even though the pain presents at the knee. A tight or immobile hip can end up forcing the knee to compensate and move in ways in which it was not designed for. Similarly, if the ankle joint lacks mobility, it can place excessive stress on the knee joint during movement. Remember, the knee joint is designed for stability. The ankle is a mobility joint which typically requires a baseline of forty degrees in dorsiflexion for healthy functional movement. This means that if your ankle mobility falls short of this metric by ten degrees the knee will be unfairly asked to make up that deficit. And good luck gaining that dorsiflexion through stretching. I’ll wait…

Punk Rock Yoga is the alternative to the stretch till you wretch methods so common to yoga studios today. Static stretching techniques have their merits, but quite honestly are overrated when we zoom out and take in a high altitude view of the body’s movement needs. The methods I employ not only improve flexibility, but target strength, stability and motor control in parallel. The real magic isn’t in these fitness buzzwords however. What I am uniquely capable of providing is assessments and testing which will reveal where your deficits truly lie, eliminating the guesswork and shoot in the darkstrategy of strip mall fitness.

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