Stretch Clinic founder and sports therapist Liam Harkness asks me to stand in front of a posture grid and have a picture taken. It highlights my odd slump: belly out, foot behind me, head tilted forward. Poor posture is carried over from sitting eight hours a day at work, Liam explains, into workouts and even sleep, where we side sleep to mirror how we sit throughout the day.
My body is a classic example; my pelvis isn’t aligned and both sides of my body are unbalanced, with my right foot caving into its arch. When guided on how I would stand with the right posture, it feels like holding a yoga pose, strange and exhausting.
Stretching and strengthening are the key strategies used in Active Isolated Stretching to regain strength and find balance. Isolated stretches – where you let your target muscle relax while contracting its opposing muscles – are held for a maximum of two seconds and repeated eight to 10 times, exhaling with each stretch. Breathing is key, as it effectively takes your mind off anticipating the pain.
While I’m seated, Liam presses into my muscles to locate where the pain is. For me, it’s the right pelvis, from my exaggerated leg crossing. He then passes me a non-stretchy band to hook to my foot. Lying on my back, I’m told to lift my right leg into the air and pull with my arms, extending further than I’d usually manage, exhaling with each stretch. With each lift, I push higher and higher. This combination of repetitive short stretches means I’m less scared of the pain, my muscles don’t clench up and my range of motion actually increases. I’m then led through stretches to open up my hips and strengthen my back.
But I can only tell you so much as the one-on-one sessions are customised for every client. “We have a programme where we teach people how to self-care so when they come in we’ll give them exercises to do at home and if they do those well the body will start to change its posture,” Liam explains. “Once you reach a certain level we can give more exercises. After three or four sessions they should be able to self-care very well. We have clients who have had pain problems for many years and their spinal alignment is really poor. That does take a little bit longer.”
The Stretch Clinic founder Liam Harkness teaching me how to strengthen my back through Active Isolated Stretching.
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PostureMinder, Google Chrome extension for reminders to sit up and more importantly, take a walk