It’s not Yoga, Pilates, and isn’t even classed as standard ‘resistance stretching’; Moving Stretch is the new practice, treatment and therapy that has everyone feeling better. It ‘works on the fascia, releasing the body from pain, stiffness and limitation and helping to create a naturally healthy body, which is strong, flexible and graceful’. I recently chatted with founder Suzanne Wylde about the benefits of this technique, her sudden appearance in big, National newspapers, and how she keeps herself healthy and happy every day. Sit back, stretch out your legs and get comfy, you’re about to learn a whole lot more about what it means to ‘stretch’….
Q: Moving Stretch® has been all over the press and national media recently, with even A-List celebrities feeling the benefits of it. How did you first become interested in developing stretching techniques?
A: It was actually quite a circuitous path. Rather than starting with sports or physio, I began by studying Tai Chi at 16 for a couple of years, and going on to do a five year degree in Traditional Chinese medicine. Whilst practicing acupuncture I started resistance stretching at home and noticed immediate benefits in my posture. I went to study in the States originally but over time started to develop my own method, incorporating my experience as an acupuncturist, working with pain and physical injuries and imbalances. I wanted to offer something that was very accessible to people of different flexibility levels, and adaptable enough to be able to meet different needs in people with quite different bodies. It has been challenging and interesting creating something new that people can use to feel better straight away, and seeing those results unfolding in front of my eyes.
I never dreamed that I would be featured in Tatler, the Guardian, the Evening Standard and especially not in a double page spread in the Times! I’m very grateful for that exposure, as it really changed things for my business and lead to me getting my book deal. However, the most amazing and funniest thing for me so far has been being able to watch one of our Moving Stretch trainers teaching a class and seeing the students benefit from the stretches I created. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as that, the feeling that I have created something that can stand on its own and help people in other countries who I’ve never even met.
Q: As well as Moving Stretch, you have a background in Chinese Medicine; do you incorporate this into any of the work you do now, and has it changed the way you think about ‘health’?
A: One of the most important things I learned while studying TCM (tradition Chinese medicine) was the importance of being flexible (no pun intended) by using whatever works for the client, and adjusting the method if it is not working. Even though it is important to have a theoretical framework, at the end of the day the client was more important than the theory, whereas some systems can be so dogmatic they refuse to see information that conflicts with their theory, or try to squish it into their framework, rather than adapting their theory. I have tried to carry this principle through into Moving Stretch, by trying to keep it adaptable to the needs of different people and continually learning and trying to improve the technique.
In some ways my acupuncture practice is quite different; looking at separate meridians of the body, whilst when I stretch people I work on the fascia, which is extremely interconnected throughout the whole body. However, both methods look at the person holistically, and although to many people it can be a bit of an “airy-fairy” term, actually I feel that this perspective is the only way to get deep and lasting change in an individual’s health that “sticks”.
Q: Have you always been into health and wellbeing?
A: Yes and no. I have always been interested in people, what makes them happy and healthy, and how to help people attain this. I was very lazy when I was younger and a love of movement and exercise came only with adulthood, along with a fascination in movement. Mostly I am interested in how to help people achieve their potential and have a fulfilling life – and it is amazing how much facilitating free movement can help people in this respect. Having worked with many people limited by poor posture and pain I saw that it is very hard to achieve our potential, or even to be happy before our bodies are strong and able to move freely. But I also believe in having a balanced life, with good habits and enough “bad” habits to keep life interesting.
Q: There are a lot of alternative movement practices surfacing at the moment, and Yoga in particular is more popular in the West than it has ever been. How does Moving Stretch differ to Yoga, and any other form of stretching most people may have practiced?
A: It is an interesting question, it is always tricky introducing a new concept, because in some ways it is easier to experience it than understand an explanation, especially when someone is already trained in a particular discipline. However I would say it is similar to yoga in that it is holistic and can both strengthen and stretch people, leading to significant physical improvements in health and posture.
It is different in that it is not a specific sequence of moves or postures, we do a different combination of stretches in each class or session, not sticking to any set pattern. Also, yoga consists of poses, but in Moving Stretch we stretch through a range of motion, not staying very long at the end before repeating the stretch. We also always use resistance when we move through the stretch, in order to engage the fascia and then recondition it through the movement.
It is also quite different to passive stretching, which is the “normal” method of stretching for most people, which emphasises trying to push beyond the existing range of motion at the end of the range. However, in Moving Stretch we do not push beyond our comfortable range, and all the good stuff happens while we are moving. People tend to feel stronger, looser, taller and more open and energised after a Moving Stretch class or session.
Q: Fascia seems to be the new ‘buzzword’ amongst health, anatomy and movement professionals at the moment. What exactly is fascia, and why is it so important to maintain the health of it?
A: Fascia is the dense connective tissue that makes us the shape that we are. It tells the story of our habitual movement patterns and holds us within the posture and the range of motion that we use the most often. It is important to keep it healthy because otherwise, from my experience, it can lead to premature ageing and deterioration of physical posture and movement. When we recondition the fascia it can become rehydrated, more elastic, and support us in great posture and freedom of movement.
Q: What three things do you do every day to look after yourself and your health?
A: I try to avoid sitting in chairs “normally”, by standing, sitting on the floor, squat-sitting on the sofa, to help me increase my “movement menu” for the day.
I stretch most days, but whether I stretch or not, I try to follow what my body wants in terms of movement.
I have fun every day and enjoy what I am doing, I laugh and smile when possible (its usually possible!).
Q: How can we feel we’re working with the fascia with a Moving Stretch technique?
A: You tense your muscles to engage the fascia and then move through that resistance, only as far as you can comfortably. You can make a lot of stretches into resistance stretches by doing this, just bear in mind that we never push through pain or beyond our natural range, and that the stretch happens while we move, not at the end of the range of motion.
Q: What does the future look like for Moving Stretch?
A: I am pleased to say that my book Moving Stretch: Stretch Your Fascia to Free Your Body (Lotus Publishing) will be out later this year and we have more training courses and events planned, and more certified trainers teaching classes in both the UK and abroad. It is an exciting time for us as we grow, but also for me personally as I hope to be able to help many more people through the book and training Moving Stretch trainers than I could just by myself, which has always been my dream. We hope to be able to work with businesses who want to improve and maintain the health of their employees, “every-day” people who want to improve their bodies and lives, as well as special programs for people who may be from disadvantaged backgrounds, who wouldn’t normally be able to afford it.
Q: How can we try Moving Stretch for ourselves?
The book will be a great way to try the stretches at home, with both individual stretches and routines. We also have some amazing stretching trainers teaching stretching classes and one-on-one sessions, their details are on our website: www.movingstretch.com. Our website will also have stretches online, so people can easily stretch along to our videos at home.