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Aiya

Working with bulky, tense, strong bodies that don't track sensation

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I'm a new Stretch Therapy Teacher in the US and have a student / private client who wants to stretch, but is large/bulky, very strong, and EXTREMELY tense. "Relax" doesn't seem to register in his system and he's reporting that he's not feeling much of a stretch in most poses because he runs into a movement "wall" before he feels a stretch. He has difficulty sitting on the floor (extremely tight outer hips, hamstrings) and cannot bring his knees together with feet on the floor while sitting on the floor. He's in his early-mid 40s and practices ju-jitsu.

Challenges with ST poses (examples):

  • Soleus stretch holding onto a rig didn't bring a stretching sensation - only discomfort with the pose
  • Bringing knees to parallel while sitting on floor with feet on floor isn't possible
  • Not feeling sensation with C-curve spinal flexion
  • Body too tight to feel small changes in a twist

Because of all this, we've scheduled a private to modify stretches for him. He wants to focus on hip flexors, piriformis, calves, achilles, and spinal extension). Because he cannot comfortably sit on the floor, I'd like to use a chair as a prop for daily 5 and as many other stretches as possible until the floor is a reasonable place to work. I believe his core challenge is not being able to track body sensations due to excessive tension / belief that feeling the body is only feeling discomfort, but I'm not sure I'll get traction starting in that place with him.

Can you advise on two things:

1. Where would you start / recommended mods for him?

2. Success you've had in getting clients who can't access body sensations to move that direction? (I will, of course, recommend relaxation scripts)

Thank you in advance!

Aiya 

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Hi Aiya,

Welcome to the forums!

3 hours ago, Aiya said:

he's not feeling much of a stretch in most poses because he runs into a movement "wall" before he feels a stretch

As you hinted at afterward, if he is really as tight as implied then he will be feeling the stretch almost immediately in many poses. He simply doesn't know how a stretch feels, or doesn't want to believe that he is feeling a stretch in what seems to be so far from the shapes he considers goals or acceptable. I would begin developing this sense with him using an area that he doesn't feel strongly about (expectations-wise) and which is relatively sensitive. My first thought would be the neck. Another possibility might be the wrists. Use one of these areas to familiarize him with stretch sensations in various intensities (be careful if using the neck, of course) and then try to reproduce those sensations in other areas of the body.

At the beginning of the session, I would want to ease him into a "relax" mode. It sounds like this will be difficult for him, and the solution will depend on what he finds relaxing, but something to try would be going through the joints of the body and doing joint rotations. Begin with quick, vigorous movements, which he will probably like, to warm up the muscles and expend some energy, and then gradually taper the intensity off working toward slow, broad movements while imagining himself as a big blob of goo. You could pair this with some nice, relaxing background music.

Technique-wise, C-R will be important but it might be difficult to use well before he develops a sense for relaxing. It might be helpful to use longer contractions to literally exhaust the muscles and encourage him to let go. Also, I would focus on contracting the agonist muscles hard for pretty much all of the stretches. This should resonate with him since he gets to use his muscles, and it will help relax the target muscles. It may backfire if he doesn't have enough body control to contract the agonists only, though.

Those are just a few of my initial ideas to give you something to think about. I am sure Kit and others will chime in later.

3 hours ago, Aiya said:

(I will, of course, recommend relaxation scripts)

Definitely do :)

And keep us updated on how it goes!

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Thank you, Nathan! Very helpful and along the lines I was thinking - especially the exhaustion approach. Also, as per recommendations from others, I'm thinking about using some manual soft tissue movement (rubbing, light percussion, and even shaking the tissue) before stretching to help it let go. And, may use bands to help traction joints while getting into stretches. "Big blog of goo" might be a bit too woo-woo for him (he is, as I heard someone say in Oz, a bloke's bloke). Will let you know how it goes!

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32 minutes ago, Aiya said:

Also, as per recommendations from others, I'm thinking about using some manual soft tissue movement (rubbing, light percussion, and even shaking the tissue) before stretching to help it let go.

You might also teach him how to use a ball for SMR so that he can do that at home too.

33 minutes ago, Aiya said:

"Big blog of goo" might be a bit too woo-woo for him (he is, as I heard someone say in Oz, a bloke's bloke).

I'm actually from the US :lol: No problem, just change the image. Tell him to imagine he's sinking deeper and deeper into a super comfy recliner with a beer in his hand and the football game on TV! :lol:

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