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The Perils of Overstretching


Hello All,

My Apologies in not blogging to all of you sooner.  I have been extremely busy these past few months.

As you all know by now, I try to blog on topics that I deem important to our fitness professions.  Please read the below Article by:  by Jill Miller, Creator of Yoga Tune Up®.   She is one of my favorite presenters, and is very respected in the Fitness Industry.

The Perils of Overstretching

Article by:  by Jill Miller, Creator of Yoga Tune Up®

I began practicing yoga at age 11. My mom brought home the Jane Fonda workout and Raquel Welch Yoga videos and I became obsessed … especially with the yoga. At first I wasn’t very flexible, couldn’t touch my toes, and was extremely weak in my shoulders and core.

When I first started practicing, the Splits (Hanumanasana), were wishful thinking, but I was diligent and disciplined and, by age 14, I was religiously reading Yoga Journal and stretching my way into the splits. In college, I would wake up early and practice my poses in meditative silence while my roommate was still sleeping. I stretched all the time and it instantly made me feel better but, while my hamstrings were super-flexible, I would wake up in with searing sciatic pain down my left leg.

In my early 20s, I began practicing Ashtanga and Power Yoga and watched my flexibility continue to improve. I was “that contortionist  girl” in classes, the one who could do ALL of the really difficult bendy poses and loved my exceptional flexibility and its “specialness.” I thought that yoga and stretching were healthy, but I didn’t realize that I was actually overdoing it and creating serious problems in some of my tissues.

How can overstretching harm the body?

When a muscle is being lengthened, it’s not just the actual muscle cells being elongated, but also the fascia or connective tissues that surround, encase and penetrate throughout the muscle. These connective tissues comprise 30 percent of the bulk of a muscle. When we stretch a muscle, upwards of 40 percent of the actual stretch is coming from the elongation of its fascia!  With too much stretching, the fascial tissues lose their ability to recoil and the inherent elasticity of these connective tissues disintegrates and becomes less functional.

These Connective tissues are full of nerves and blood vessels that help supply the muscles with nourishment. Fascia is also loaded with collagen and elastin molecules that help provide anchors for motion and cushions of protection for the muscle cells. If tissues are chronically overstretched, the muscles also become more vulnerable and under siege from the constant stretching. Muscles (and the soft tissues surrounding them, including tendons and ligaments) then begin to develop painful “micro-tears.”

Stretch intervention: strength training

I probably would have just kept stretching myself into oblivion had my yoga mentor and biomechanics expert Glenn Black not stepped in. His diagnosis: muscle weakness due to overstretching. He said that I needed to restore the power in my muscles to stabilize my joints. This explained why I could never quite find a comfortable position or “sit still” unless I was practicing. Stretching would give me a temporary feeling of release and relief, as it is truly beneficial for relaxing the nervous system, improving circulation, etc., but my overall muscle tone had been stretched to the point that I had become terribly unstable at many of my joints.

I had worked with him for four consecutive summers at the Omega Institute before moving to Los Angeles and becoming “Bendy Girl.” After seven years without him, I needed his critical insight to help restore balance in my body. He told me that I needed to complement my yoga with resistance training like lifting weights and/or using more PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitated stretching) within my practice. Galvanizing both the strength that muscles generate along with the lengthening and yielding of the connective tissues that surround them is what the body needs for true physiological balance.

Adding resistance training to my movement practice has not only been a revelation but it’s a foundational principle behind Yoga Tune Up®. My body feels good. I can now sit still on a six-hour flight and walk away without needing to crack my hips or spine! So yogis, if you find yourself with odd aches and pains, I ask you to take a closer look at where you might have actually created weakness from overstretching.

Article by:  by Jill Miller, Creator of Yoga Tune Up®

For More information on Jill Miller:-

With Kind Regards

Gail Bannister-Munn

Fitness Educator/Presenter
“Change the way you look at things,
and things will change”
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