In order to be more flexible we are told we need to stretch. Unfortunately, stretching elicits the “stretch reflex”. Meaning a strong contraction follows stretching as muscles automatically tighten up again.
A type of stretch that doesn’t call that reflex into play is based upon a principle called reciprocal inhibition, discovered by Sir Charles Sherrington. Reciprocal inhibition describes the process of muscles on one side of a joint relaxing to accommodate contraction on the other side of that joint. For example, if you bring your head towards your right shoulder and hold with resistance, the muscles on the left side of your neck relax. Despite the success of this method, it is short lived because the muscles will tighten up again due to habitual muscular tension patterns.
Contrast this with the Feldenkrais Method, which works with the principles of Reciprocal Inhibition and the Brain to change habitual muscular patterns. By utilizing conscious awareness, we can sense where we are holding unnecessarily, and can eliminate chronic muscular contraction or effort and we “find” our own way to greater self-organization. This allows us to achieve a natural ongoing state of flexibility without the need to constantly stretch.