Friday, May 24, 2013

Out of the Crucible (The Evolution of Stretch Therapy)

The last two posts by my fellow 90 day blog challengee (Kit); Stretching Mindfully PART 1 and PART 2 have been (along with the previous posts on mindfulness in general, at the same location), in my personal opinion, quite possibly a watershed moment in the evolution of Stretch Therapy. That's a big call, but hear me out. 

I think the explicit inclusion of the mindfulness and Buddhist aspects, which have always been in the system covertly/implicitly (if you know Kit they are obvious), front and centre marks the beginning of a new era - Stretching Mindfully.  This also makes sense in regards to the title change - what do you do when you've 'Overcome Neck and Back Pain'?  You continue onwards - to grace and ease in the body, and using the system for body-mindfulness (Stretching Mindfully) (and/or get cat-like via Monkey Gym methods).   

A while back I helped Kit clean and re-organize his library of books. In this eclectic collection there were many, many books on anatomy, philosophy, human ecology, logic and systems science from Kit's academic days; a large number of books of various types of body work and somatics; various camera and technical books; a vast collection of Dharma books from a wide range of spiritual traditions; training manuals for exercise science, nutrition and biochemistry; various classics of miscellaneous topics, and lots of booklets from different workshops that Kit had attended. A true expert generalists bookshelf!   

A nice collection indeed, but one that doesn't come through in the references of Kit's books, fully.  It's quite often only at workshops that Kit will, in the moment, remember some fascinating point, or useful detail, from his philosophy days, or from his rich practical and experiential background.

Now, it seems, with Kit's recent work and experience with the Theraveda Buddhist tradition; and his teaching of Stretch Therapy™ methods alongside Vipassana style meditation retreats - the time is ripe for a second flowering (as a lot of these ideas have been growing 'underground' for quite a while).  A quick quote from his blog today: 

"So now to the deep reason for the book title, Stretching Mindfully. Simply, the body is the primary instrument of insight. The standard opening instruction in all meditation retreats is, “Bring your attention to the breath.” As soon as you do this, there is only sensations—until the awareness is captured by a thought and taken away from the present. Being aware of this capturing process is mindfulness. The sensations of stretching are, for most people, even stronger than the sensations of breathing. My experience of working with many people on meditation retreats is that connecting the meditator to the body via stretching and movement brings the person into the present and keeps them in the present extremely effectively. As well,  gaining a closer contact and understanding of the physical structure you live in will enhance the sensations of breathing, digestion, and existing very, very effectively. Enhancement of the sensations of being alive is another way of helping us stay in the present." Kit Laughlin, Stretching Mindfully part 2

Now, for me personally that last line prickled the hair of my skin.  What I am doing with Physical Alchemy is creating a system based upon just this; enhancing the sensations of being alive, or as I like to put it - The Re-enchantment of the Body.  A large part of me writing these blogs (and doing the 90 day challenge) was to start accelerating the process of this creation (writing Physical Alchemy into existence, so to speak).  There are other aspects that are involved (and lots of scope for change and incorporation of new things), and I will write a 'What is this thing called Physical Alchemy' post at some stage soon.   

What I think is fascinating is how these living systems grow and spawn.  Stretch Therapy was created via Kit's experience and study in Japan, and later academically in Australia (whilst simultaneously doing all types of practical knowledge and skill acquisition) - tested and refined in the crucible of 25 years of classes (and lots of teachers) at the Australian National University; and many national and international workshops during this time.

Now, it seems that the original system has enough momentum to give rise to new forms of expression; new branches on the tree - Stretching Mindfully and Physical Alchemy.  This is not to say that Stretch Therapy itself will not keep growing (and to say it is separate is not quite true, anyhow).

In this era of web 2.0 and heightened information sharing, the process of evolution for this type of thing is increasingly quick - which is good, because things are increasingly dire in the world.  As Kit said on the phone yesterday, Indra's net is closing.  The ease with which you can link together like-minded people in the same, and different, fields of inquiry is one of the best things about this era.

There are others out there, doing similar body-mindfulness style training via yoga, or martial arts, or whatever.  Lots of them have great techniques and insights that would be useful to share. For me this is so exciting!  Continuing to learn other systems, whilst deepening the body-knowledge I've acquired via years of practice with the Stretching Mindfully/Stretch Therapy system.

The important thing is that more people get into this type of thing; really get it, at a deep physical, experiential level.  It changes you. It transmutes you into a more alive, higher functioning, more compassionate and mindful being.  The name of the system doesn't matter, just the results.  The epidemic of lack of body awareness (body-mindfulness) needs skillful and expedient methods to do something about it Now.  Anyone who practices this type of things, or teaches others to do this, under any art, method or style, is totally cool and deserves much 'fruit' to come their way. 


  1. Great post Dave. When you look at Patanjali's yoga sutras, hardly any of it has much to do with physical exercise - its really guidelines in awareness. Yet much of today's yoga is 90% physical 10% awareness. In a vinyasa or ashtanga/vini sequence much emphasis seems on movement which is attractive to the mind (not get bored) but not really an efficient anatomical result - as you guys teach that some stretches need X+ seconds to start to yield benefit.
    Add to that the injection of intention and attention and you are really accelerating the understanding of what's going on - that surely must also deliver anatomical benefit (I.e more flexibility, more blood circulation, general well being etc). Add to that the western technical anatomy understanding and its a very rich system.
    So I'll be interested in reading your "what is this thing...." post to understand where you are heading.

    Also you might be also interested in some of the new delivery systems using apps instead of just videos/books. Might be well-suited to you. If you have android/iPhone check out "you are your own gym" for a better example of self-paced study and video support.

  2. Thank you for you kind words and support! I am most definitely interested in the newer delivery systems; and getting this stuff out to as many people as I can in this lifetime.

    Imagine what would happen if a million new people (or 20 million aka a supertrend) really got this type of thing at a deep level! It would change society very positively! :)

  3. My office is nearby so if you want to bounce ideas on apps etc, let's do bulletproof coffee sometime (apparently mlc centre has it)

  4. Sounds like a grand idea; I'll be in touch shortly. D


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