Stretching is about testing our boundaries. Compassionate Stretching is about being loving and conscious with oneself. It is a chance to see how much we can expand beyond our existing limits and sense of self. It is about learning how to let go. It is about remembering how to really relax into the moment and not resist. There is a lot of tension in resisting. Instead what is more effective, is the releasing and letting go from the inside.
Physically speaking, the exercise of stretching as practiced through such disciplines as yoga, tai chi and dance, allows for the physical release of tensions and constrictions. Tension in our bodies oftentimes has to do with our breathing, or lack of it. Practices such as yoga help to bring attention onto our breathing, to better attain a relaxed and clear mind. As the mind relaxes, the body relaxes. And in actuality if the mind is not relaxed, the body cannot relax. In other words you could stretch for days and the tension would still be generated. Becoming one with our breath both activates the breath within us and reminds our mind to return to a pliant state.
It is important to know there are effective, natural techniques available right now to faciliate relaxation and thereby improve vitality, through aiding the body to be in a state of calm equilibrium. Physiologically the body is either preparing for battle or for peace, depending upon which mode of the Autonomic Nervous System is operating. Oftentimes people don't stretch because they think it hurts. If stretching is particularly painful I say you are doing it wrong.
The first rule is to be gentle with oneself. Start at the exact point that you first begin to feel a stretch. Really breathe into and relax into that point. Take the time to see if your mind is relaxed and focused on just where you are. Be mindful of what you are telling yourself as you are stretching. Are you reinforcing beliefs such as "I'm tight!", "I hate doing this", "get me out of this!", or are you actually able to be fully present in yourself and letting go from the inside. It is not about something to fight, overpower or overcome.
Allow your body to dictate the rhythm and speed of the stretch. Let yourself recognize that each breath is a breath of life. We are literally breathing life into ourselves and releasing it along with any tension our thoughts or emotions contain. You are only kidding yourself if you are trying to stretch and you are rushing through it or your mind is still tense. Stretching can be an anticipated daily activity. The more open, present and relaxed you are, the more good things will come to you; you are no longer blocking them. In stretching there is no goal. There is only a surrender and a meeting with the healer within.