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Jim Pickles

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Jim Pickles last won the day on April 10

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  1. I had a student this happened too as well. I never worked out why. We adjusted the position of that leg a bit, to redirect the forces, and it was OK, though we never really worked out why. I'd be glad to know if you find a solution. (and in response to Nathan, whose response has just come up, in my student it was the back knee.)
  2. Nathan - many thanks for your response. I never found the first stretch you described did much for me, though I must admit I didnt do much CR in that position because I stopped doing it before I came across Kit's method. Also I suspect that the discomfort in the front of the hip stopped me from doing it much. Your second one sounds great and I’ll try it – I do something a bit similar as part of my backbend warmup and will try it for forward splits too. I like going into splits from above, with torso vertical and hips level, so that the full body weight forces the legs apart. Obviously in this position you need some sort of safety factor if not down to the floor, and I used to relax onto a pile of books (adjusted to be exactly the right height). Now with my students I use blocks or fractional blocks, topped by what I call a "squashy block" which is a half-thickness block, made of 4 cut pieces of softish mat glued together, which provides just the right combination of support and resilience to support them while letting them sink and get a stretch. This pic below shows a class in progress. All are using as many props as necessary so that they can relax with full confidence in the final position. Obviously you have to work to keep the hips square and level, and to stop too much of the bend going into the front hamstring. I found it good to precede it with a long pre-tensioningand stretch of the hip flexor by standing in a high lunge (often with the front foot raised on a support) while clenching the gluts and other buttock muscles of the leg that is going back as hard as possible, to push the front of the hip forward, arms raised overhead and leaning away from that side (to direct more stretch into the psoas), held for 3 minutes. I tell them it will give them a firm butt which they seem to like for some reason. In me, it is this that turned the forward splits from something that was occasional to something that is now easy and routine (and I hardly need to warm up for it now). The one nearest the camera now has beautiful flat splits which she does easily and routinely too. Cheers, Jim.
  3. Thoughts on forward splits. We often see people trying to stretch for forward splits like this (Fig. 1): Obviously they are making things difficult for themselves because there is very little bend in the hip flexor of the back leg, and the stretch is almost entirely being directed to the hamstring of the forward leg. We all know that there are a lot of stretches to extend the hip flexors of the back leg so the torso can be held reasonably upright (Fig. 2): One hip flexor stretch is shown below, where the rectus femoris is pre-tensioned from its insertion by putting the lower leg up against the wall, and then the hips are allowed to sink forward (Fig. 3). Many people find this excruciating around the front of the hip, to the extent that they do not allow themselves to get a proper stretch from it. However I’ve been experimenting with rectus femoris stretches where the muscle is pretensioned from the origin, at the hip. In a forward split (which gives a maximal extension around the hip joint) I then lift the back foot off the floor. I’ve been resisting doing this for many years because if the hamstrings have previously been getting a strong stretch, there is a danger that they may cramp. However, as I have become more flexible and splits have become nearer to my normal range, this doesn’t happen so much. Then when the foot is within range of the hand, you can pull it closer with the arm (Fig. 5). If you are doing a partner stretch, then you can ask the stretchee to resist the stretch slightly (by pushing the foot gently into your hand) which reduces that chance that the antagonistic muscles, the hamstrings, will cramp. What I have found interesting, is that after this, the flat split (Fig. 2) becomes much easier, even though the rectus femoris in this position was clearly not at its full extension, and therefore should not been limiting the stretch. This is shown because it is possible to voluntarily lift the foot off the floor (Fig. 4). Also the previously-painful hip flexor stretch against the wall (Fig. 3) becomes painless when the hips are dropped forward. I suggest (in me at least) that there are a lot of fascial adhesions at the front of the hip which affect more than the rectus femoris. These adhesions can be freed by pre-tensioning the rectus femoris at its origin, and then stretching it from its insertion (Fig. 5). I also think there are a lot of individual variations: the leg against wall stretch (Fig. 3) is not at all painful for one of my students, and I have the impression from this and other stretches that she is less limited by fascia and connective tissue, and more by muscle, than I and many of my other students are. Finally, I have found a better way of doing oversplits. Oversplits help bring flat splits into your normal range of movement and let you use less warm up. Usually it is done with the forward heel on a support. I find that because my knees tend to hyperextend, this is not good for my knees, and propping the back of the knee or leg with a support is painful. I have found that if the whole forward leg is supported on a board, it becomes a good stretch (Fig. 6). The challenge here is to make sure the front of the thigh of the back leg is in contact with the mat, and that the hips are level and also fully pressed into the mat: I may use weights to do this in future. I often see people doing oversplits with the forward leg raised much higher, but with the hips very tilted – I do not think this is useful as a stretch. As for whether particular stretches are more limited by muscle or by fascia, this is a fascinating question that I am investigating. It is clearly difficult to decide, and a lot is guesswork and going by impression. I also have the impression that (for me at least) partner stretches are not useful where the primary limitation is muscle, but are very useful where the primary limitation is fascia. Seeing we don’t clearly know which is which, there is obviously a lot of guesswork, but it is part of adjusting the stretching strategy to the individual. I’d be glad if anyone has any views on this. Cheers, Jim. And for some reason the figure below keeps appearing here, even though I delete it. Maybe our esteemed Webmaster can do it?????
  4. Well, I read through his article, but didnt look at the video. I thought what he said was absolute rubbish. The facts are confused and reversed througout. The only thing I would agree with, is that you shouldnt need to be taking fibre supplements. You should be getting your high fibre intake from fruit and vegetables. As an example of the reversed logic: e.g. "If insoluble fiber causes large stools, large stools cause straining, straining causes hemorrhoidal disease, ..." Large stools (which if they come from fibre are SOFT large stools) cause LESS straining, and so REDUCE the the chance of hemorrhoidal disease. All twaddle. I wonder how people can write this stuff. I suppose they have to write something different, to get attention and sell products. Or maybe its just a practical joke.
  5. Following a brief discussion about having the strength to hold yourself up in a straddle split, I was prompted to post this - if you cant hold yourself up, try this instead (Britains Got Talent 2019): BGT_strength_in_a_straddle.mp4
  6. One way to let go is to do what you are doing - focus on a different stimulus, so your attention is distracted from the one you want to let go of. Every time you focus on something that annoys you, you are telling yourself that it is an important stimulus. Naturally, the brain adapts to become more responsive to what is important, so the neural connections between the stimulus and your consciousness and the resulting arousal become stronger (generating the fight or flight reaction, in the extreme). If you distract yourself with another stimulus, over time the neural connections with the annoying stimulus will get weaker and maybe even eventually disappear, so you are no longer aware of it. Every time your arousal level is raised (maybe by the effort of trying to relax!) you are preparing your body for action (fight or flight again) and you will increase the importance of the annoying stimulus for you. That is why relaxing by focussing on your breathing is good, because (1) it is a distraction, distracting you away from the annoying stimulus or situation, and (2) long slow out-breaths help relaxation. As for sensitivity to sound interrupting sleep, use earplugs PLUS a noise generator in the room, to help mask outside noises (it can be white noise, or something relaxing like birdsong, depending what sort of noises you want to mask). With practice, the conscious control of your relaxation will become easier. The brain is set up for learning!
  7. What sort of explanation are you looking for? If you are looking for a description of neural mechanisms, you can search Wikipedia with terms like “attention” and follow up links to the neural mechanisms. You can also search the medical literature at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed. However unless you have a background in neuroscience you will just end up with a list of brain structures with no way of putting them in context, which will mean further studying. Or if you are looking for an explanation from the point of view of subjective experience, then I don’t know what to say, except that for me, one stage is generating a sensory experience associated with the phenomenon I am trying to achieve, and then refining it until it becomes more precise. Reading about neural mechanisms may help illuminate the neural mechanisms involved in this. However undoubtedly there are other things going on as well. But as for making a more definitive link between the neural mechanisms and the subjective sensations, in the end there is a gap that cannot (at the moment at least) be filled: search Wikipedia with the term “the hard problem”.
  8. A friend introduced me to this nice anatomy program. It has an extensive model of the human body (at the moment only male, though they have a supplement for the female pelvis, with a full female body to come). One advantage is that it allows you to visualise all those little muscles that intertwine with other muscles in 3D, that are so awkward so see in most anatomy books. There are extensive tools for adding layers of muscles, connective tissue, nervous system, etc, at will, selecting some, fading others, etc. One especially nice thing is that in many cases the action of the muscle can be shown in a movie - as shown in this screen capture (attached). There are lots of other tools, which I've not explored. I have a single user single-platform licence (one-off fee of US$60) - there are also annual licences for student, professional, teaching use etc which allow sharing of information, access to quizzes etc. As far as I am aware, I can't share the video (which the system will save), except through their own system (needing the appropriate licences presumably), though I can do it with a screen capture There are limitations. In general, it does not show the internal anatomy of the individual structures. The central nervous system only shows as the outer layer of dura mater. An anatomy book with detailed drawings might show more detail of the muscles, giving a better idea of the organisation of the muscle fascicles within (and similarly with other structures). It is an anatomy program, and not a biomechanics program, so it only shows simple movements from a neutral position - for example, it does not show how the leg muscles act if the hip starts from a turned out position (as in ballet). Some muscles (e.g. around the rib cage) may not have a movie associated (maybe because the actions are not certain, or are too complex to program). It has allowed me to easily get insight into some points of muscle action that have been puzzling me - I have found it a very valuable program, and have only just started exploring its potential. There is a 3-day free trial. Highly recommended. 3D4Medical_Complete_Anatomy_demo_3.mp4
  9. @pogo69 Nuts are certainly nutient-dense, so are valuable for that reason (and that is why I eat them). As for being a valuable source of fibre, I'd say if you eat enough nuts to make a significant difference to your fibre intake, you will be consuming too many kJ (or calories). In other words, I DISAGREE with the oft-stated opinion that nuts (or hazelnuts at least, which are the only ones I looked at) are a valuable source of fibre. I agree that the information is all epidmiological - this is all we have to go on - which is so often the case in health studies. But while the results may be uncertain, they are still valuable (though should be taken with a pinch of salt, as always with epidemiological studies). I'd never heard about non-digestible animal parts, and their effects, and whether they can stand in for plant fibre - I need to look that up. Jim.
  10. I often heard that for straddle splits (where connective tissue can often be the limiter) very long holds are a good thing; I agree with Nathan that (theoretically at least) we expect long holds to be good for stretching connective tissue. However, in general now I avoid long holds (longer than a minute or so) if I feel a strong effect on the muscle. I have found that in this case, long holds seem to cause extra damage to the muscle which can limit flexibiity later on (but I have not dared test this to destruction). Now I can sit comfortably in forward splits I tend to do that for a longer time (5 mins) in the hope that it will become part of my normal range. Nevertheless this can lead to some sort of bruising feeling around the upper insertion of the outer hamstrings, that shorter stretches would not. More and more I am cycling in and out of the stretch, in approx 2-sec cycles, with the stretch on the out-breath. I use this both for myself and with students. This allows you to stretch further than you would if the stretch was held. I think the pain and tissue damage takes time to appear, and the cycling means you have moved out of the stretch again before this has happened. I combine this with longer held stretches (30-60 sec). It is certainly a nicer way of going further, though I am not sure of the long-term effects on increasing flexibility yet. Jim.
  11. We're hearing recently that we should eat more grains, whole-grain bread etc, to increase our fibre intake (for males, we should be getting 25 g fibre/day; some say 30 g/day). However grains are also energy-rich, so is there a danger in getting too fat if we try to increase our fibre intake from these sources. Therefore, busy bee that I am (or a retiree with time on my hands) I've been searching out the energy vs the fibre content of foods, with particular emphasis on those that are promoted as high fibre. A summary table is below, and I have attached the original xcel spreadsheet with the link to my main source, and the details of each food. If we assume that someone is getting 50% of their energy from (zero-fibre) animal protein and fat (the maximum recommended), and with a recommended intake for a sedentary male of 9900 kJ/day (2366 kcal), the we need 4850 kJ/day from other sources. The table below shows the energy intake if we eat enough of that food to get 25 g fibre/day. They are arranged in order of fibre/kJ ratio (higher numbers are more fibre for the energy content). Therefore someone eating exclusively foods from potato and below in the list (plus their animal protein and fats) will be eating too much energy, if they aim to get 25 g fibre/day (I've called this the high-energy group). Note that this is only a first approximation, as many of these plant foods contain protein and fat as well, so the proportion of animal products may be less; also people may choose to have less than their maximum recommended amount of protein and fat/day. There are a few interesting points to me: 1. Its interesting that at the top of the list are a lot of boring, traditional, vegetables, often rudely called "fart-food". 2. I have concentrated on wholemeal breads (info from the shelves of our local branch of Coles). Of these, only Lawsons Stoneground Wholemeal is well into the high-fibre list, and the other two wholemeal breads only just creep in. The "grains" breads dont. 3. Some food promoted as high fibre in fact falls into the high-energy/low-fibre group - this includes Special K and brown rice. I've included walnuts because they are often promoted as high in fibre, but their energy content/unit of fibre is massive - though I doubt if we'd eat enough of those to make much of a difference. I've included lettuce, to see what it comes out as, but I doubt if we eat enough of that either. I've omitted other foods that are promoted as high fibre (e.g. raspberries) if we're not likely to eat enough to make a difference. Orange juice is pretty much a disaster from the energy/fibre aspect. 4. I didnt include skins with potato because I dont recommend them - they accumulate the nasty chemicals that farmers and distributors spray on them. I was surprised that Coles baked beans in tomato sauce had such a high fibre/energy ratio. Obviously they've avoided adding too much gunk into the sauce. Also, dont take too much notice of small differences in numbers - there is a lot of variability in the original data from different sources. Below: high fibre group in green, high energy group in red. The attached spreadsheet also includes a copy of the table sorted by type (vegetables/grains/fruit etc). Food kJ/25g fibre Lettuce leaf 848 Cabbage (cooked) 1263 Baked beans in tomato sauce (Coles) 1341 Broccoli 1365 Navy beans (cooked) 1395 Brussels sprouts (cooked) 1452 Kale (cooked) 1463 Peas 1486 Carrot 1536 Lentils - whole green 1550 Tomatoes (red raw) 1563 Pumpkin (boiled) 1902 Kidney beans 2074 Apples 2271 Oranges 2330 Avocado 2500 Peaches 2717 Tomatoes (red, canned, stewed) 2725 Bread Stoneground Wholemeal (Lawsons) 2801 Pasta (wholemeal) 2905 Quick oats 3130 Cherries 3143 Banana 3615 Pinapple (fresh) 3732 Bread Farmhouse Wholemeal (Abbotts) 3739 Lentils - split red 3925 Bread Wholemeal (Helgas) 3968 Melon honeydew 4719 Potato (boiled, no skin) 5000 Bread Country Grains (Abbotts) 5250 Bread Mixed Grains (Helgas) 5778 Special K 6192 Brown rice (medium grain) 6514 Walnuts (shelled) 12716 Orange juice (canned, unsweetened, inc from concentrate) 16417 (files uploaded as xcel spreadsheet and pdf copy) Fibre energy content of foods.xlsx Fibre energy content of foods.pdf
  12. Its been a time since this was posted, and no senior teacher has responded, so I'll put my two cents worth in. What do you mean "vertebrae stuck together"? Do you mean she loses mobility in a certain part of her spinal column? This could be for many reasons. Somehow your wording suggests that the bones are locking together in some way (which would really have to be diagnosed with an x-ray or MRI), but the first thing that occurs to me is that the muscles have gone into some sort of spasm or tightening in response to the activity, stopping the vertebrae from moving. If this case I'd suggest relaxation, stretching, and loosening exercises for the back. You could try spinal twists, and lying back over a firm rubber roller, moving it along the back, and then many standard yoga back exercises, but doing only the gentle ones, and only doing them gently. Then you would need to follow it up with strengthening for the back. There are some of these exercises in the series that can be downloaded from the Stretch Therapy website. Jim.
  13. Thank you Kit for posting such a detailed commentary. I started teaching before there were many scripts available through ST: I found some basics on the web and have adapted them over time. The final relaxation of the class has 5 phases: 1. Body position, alignment, feel the floor, focus on breath etc (same wording each time, for ritual reasons). 2. Progressive relaxation (I use 4 different scripts, and cycle between them). 3. Deepening the relaxation by guided visualisation (not sure how these work for non-visual people though). I have 12 basic scripts* which I cycle between (originally found on the web and in books, plus a few I have devised myself), and adjust each one on the fly depending on how I am feeling. 4. Affirmations, in some classes. 5. Final phase of continued relaxation, followed by gradual bringing out of deep relaxation (same each time, again for ritual reasons), and a clear signal that the session is over. (* which are gradually replaced over time.) to some extent these are the techniques used in hypnosis, though I do not use the progressive levels of deepening that hypnotists use. This also avoids the problem that people might drive home still under hypnosis. I am not sure from earlier comments about how much guidance is given in breathing. One thing my yoga teacher (Ailsa Gartenstein) was very emphatic on, was not to give too much guidance of the exact timings - people prefer establish their own rhythm to your general instructions. Jim.
  14. I give classes as a stretch teacher in Australia (regular once a week group classes, plus occasional individual classes). Generally, my goal is minimal touching, to protect myself from potential accusations, no matter how misguided. Yes, we do partner stretches in class. I will demonstrate on one member and then assist the pairs in partner stretching - because this is all public and my class members are all older, around my age, everyone is very relaxed about that degree of personal contact. On the other hand, when I give individual classes at home, generally to much younger women when I am solo with them, I am very careful to not open myself to any potential accusations, no matter how misguided. I am also influenced by contortion teachers who I respect, who teach the most extreme poses with minimal touching - often just a light touch to elbow or ankle to guide alignment. There is one partner stretch that I routinely use that involves closer contact, which is the assisted lunge. I explain my policy ahead of the class, and ask permission explicilty before doing this stretch, and it is usually the only one like this. I have never detected any unhappiness with this degree of contact, but the last thing I want anyone to say is "the old man couldn't wait to get his hands all over me". By staying very well clear of any potential danger situations, I have found all my students very relaxed and confident. I am also influenced by my own experience, which is that where it is possible to arrange it mechanically, I have found it more effective to use solo stretches. This way the amount of force applied can be exactly titrated to requirements, and one is able to relax into the stretch (or maybe bracing in certain places where that is needed too, while relaxing elsewhere) more effectively - there is a closer feedback loop between the effort to apply the force and the resulting stretch sensations which I have found allows you to go into the stretch more effectively. I am in a different position from people like massage therapists and physiotherapists who have standard manipulations and a large number of professionals to back them up, so obviously my comments dont relate to those, just to someone in my situation. I just thought I'd add my views, because it is important to me, and also a matter of current discussion among contortion teachers that I know (I am not a contortion teacher by the way). Jim.
  15. I'm just wondering if the stretches that work best as partner stretches are stretches that primarily work on the fascia. In some cases it seems to me that muscle (and its reflexes) are the limitation, in other cases more the fascia. Working out which of course is difficult, and it may well vary from individual to individual. However where the critical tightness crosses multiple muscles, or does not correspond to the lines of muscles, and/or where long held stretches seem most effective, I wonder whether fascia is the primary limitation (group 1). Where the tightness corresponds to the line of a muscle, and where the CR method works well, I wonder if muscle is the primary limitation (group 2). There is of course no proof that these conjectures are true. In my experience, stretches in the first group can be more effectively helped by partner stretches. I find that partner stretches do not particularly help those in the second group. Does anyone else have views on this? I could post some examples of stretches in the two groups, and will later if requested, but have to go and stretch now!
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