Recently I attended a ki-hara class thanks to a featured teacher at Lululemon. Many folks have seen the topic thanks to a short article in Runner’s World, but most still don’t understand exactly what it is and how on Earth it could be both strength and stretching!
Now that I’ve had 4 sessions I can’t promise to completely unveil the mystery, but I do want to provide more details than that short article because I believe it is a great tool for most athletes.
When first hearing about Ki-hara Stretching, the word that stuck out for me was “stretching” so in my mind it was another form of yoga. However, a better way to think of ki-hara is like a push up; using your own body weight and resistance you are creating strength and lengthening your muscles.
You can do a lot of the movements on your own while watching TV, so there are no excuses to skip out. Like many tools the benefits are compounded over time. The more I take the time to do push pull exercises with my leg, the more I find my hamstrings are firing as they should.
WHY TRY KI-HARA?
Most runners don’t lift weights with our legs, so ki-hara is a great way to add strength and ensure that you are getting a full range of motion. One of the craziest things during my session was to realize that due to my tight muscles I wasn’t getting a full leg swing…completely explains why everyone tells me to lengthen my stride, but I physically can’t those muscles are all bound up.
I have been working with Steve at Innovative Body Solutions who works frequently with the amazing Dara Torres, who if you have been reading very long you know I admire. “Ki-Hara is my secret weapon.” Dara Torres, twelve time Olympic medalist swimmer and, at 42, American record breaker. She credits ki-hara with allowing her to make such an amazing comeback!!
Alright if it works for an Olympian then I am game. Personal sessions are definitely the way to start with ki-hara because a trainer can show you how to accurately use your body weight and will use their weight against you as well. But if you don’t have a chance for a session, you can always learn at home with a DVD (available here) too. This is one of the few instances where I’m going to say a book just isn’t enough to truly take advantage of this system.
During our first 90 minute session, I could feel muscles burning that I hadn’t used in a while, but in a completely different way than yoga. At the beginning of the session we tested my flexibility in a few different moves and by the end of the session I had gained almost 30degrees of movement!
The remainder of the day my legs simply felt like they were vibrating with energy. I assumed this meant I would be horribly sore the next day, but to my surprise I wasn’t and actually found that in yoga I was able to finally straighten my legs and more accurately get in many of the poses! Ki-hara is not breaking apart fascia in the way that a foam roller does, but it is providing you with another tool that allows your muscles to break free and work more fully.
Another way to think of it is that when you run it’s easy for certain muscles that are stronger to take over. The longer this happens the more you strengthen one muscle and your brain begins to stop sending signals to the other…for example in my case it stopped telling my hamstring to fire and this meant I was relying solely on my quads for power. Re-awakening this muscle as lengthened my stride and helped pick up my pace.
So there you have it…one tool that provides you with both Strength and Stretching!!
I am grateful for increasing strength
I am grateful for toned calvesI am grateful for new pillows
I am grateful for reminders to be present
I am grateful for massages