Postpone The Stretch Sensation

Postpone the Stretch Sensation



If one of the goals of our physical yoga practice is to increase flexibility, we may automatically believe that we just need to stretch more. It’s critical that we understand that increasing flexibility is much more layered than simply stretching. Yes, we know the stretch sensation has the potential to feel really good; in fact, it can feel GREAT when done appropriately for our bodies and at the right time.

What if we were to entertain the idea of postponing the stretch sensation in order to increase flexibility? This might sound like we’d be moving away from our goal, but we’d actually be moving more expeditiously along the path. In today’s video, Matt demonstrates strengthening techniques that target hamstring flexibility. Instead of simply stretching, we can apply techniques that not only cultivate length in the muscles but also foster the overall health of the muscles.

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As we prepare our hamstrings to stretch and create more length, we must understand the difference between tension and strength. If we go straight into stretching, attempting to go beyond our current threshold with the intention of progressing, it’s possible that our bodies will tense up and go into “protection mode.” Tension is activated to halt potential injury.

Preparing the hamstrings prior to a good stretch involves strengthening. At the beginning of today’s video, Matt demonstrates two postures that get us started:

Crescent Pose Preparation

Preparing the hamstrings also means activating the gluteus muscles. What we see are techniques initiated by the feet and pelvis that promote these activations.

Forward Fold

Pressing the heels outward here helps activate the tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscles, which tips the pelvis and lengthens the hamstrings.




To progress, we need to find multiple ways during a given yoga practice to implement the acquired techniques within the area of focus. When we do this, we train our brain and body to respond with greater precision. Two more ways to explore the hamstrings before executing a stretch include:

Twisted Monkey

Matt demonstrates a drill in which we go back and forth between activating the hamstrings and activating the quadriceps.

It’s important to be present and intentional about activating the muscles; just going through the motions means we are not implementing the techniques with accuracy.

Warrior III Preparation

Here, Matt emphasizes activating the hamstrings and the glutes by lifting the back leg higher than we might expect. We get a little closer to understanding two concepts: facilitated stretch and reciprocal inhibition.

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Matt teaches us how to apply actions that will promote transformation, rather than just executing postures in the “traditional” way. This may be different from what we’re used to in our asana practice, but when we stretch and challenge our perspective on how to practice, we begin to cultivate change.

In the video, after getting into a Cobra pose variation, Matt teaches us how to activate the hamstrings by first flexing the feet, which helps minimize potential cramping in the calf muscles, then pulling the heels towards the back. He then provides the option to undo it by lengthening the legs out. Going back and forth can assist us in deepening the activation sensation.

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Last, we see the demonstration of both strength and stretch in action when Matt transitions from Dandasana to Paschimottanasana.

In Dandasana, we learn to activate the hip flexors while stretching the hamstrings. This is an example of reciprocal inhibition: activating the opposing muscles of those we’re stretching.

Matt continues to lean more forward in the posture but cues pressing the heels down into the floor and pulling them back. Here, we’re both lengthening and activating the hamstrings. This is a demonstration of a facilitated stretch.

We have postponed the stretch sensation long enough now to more safely enter into Paschimottanasana, where the stretch can be more passive. After strengthening the muscles, our brain and body feel safe enough to release into the stretch.

This process of learning and exploration is available in Matt’s upcoming online course, The Pose Factory. Access the waiting list here!

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Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Twists & Folds Immersion 

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