It’s not massage, although there are elements of it at times. It’s not yoga, although elongating and entangling limbs is certainly part of it. And it’s not chiropractic therapy, even though the pops and crackles sometimes sound like it.
It’s “flexology,” the science of stretching, and you don’t do enough of it on your own, unless you’re tying your shoes. At StretchLab, a boutique studio in Falls Church, a “flexologist” puts you on the table and pulls, pushes, twists, and generally contorts your body in ways you either don’t know how or wouldn’t do on a dare.
But when it’s done right, it feels so good. Mostly. And even when it doesn’t, it eventually does.
StretchLab, located in the Birch & Broad shopping center on West Broad Street, opened in late August, joining the company’s more than 400 franchised storefronts in the U.S. and more than 900 studios licensed globally, according to Xponential Fitness, its parent company, which also owns Pure Barre, Cyclebar, YogaSix, and other boutique fitness and wellness brands.
It’s not a stretch to say stretching is catching on. California-based StretchLab joins other assisted-stretching studios, such as Stretch Zone’s various Northern Virginia locations, in offering personalized treatment by certified “flexologists,” who undergo 60-plus hours of theory and practice training. Sessions at StretchLab last 25 or 50 minutes and are sold as drop-ins or in membership packages at a variety of price points. General manager Tasem Abukhalaf says his tables are slammed with clients who are seeking relief from pain, want to improve their flexibility, decrease their stress, or generally live a healthier lifestyle.
In my case, nothing could hurt because, often, everything hurts. Not every day and not all the time, but there are the knees, the neck, the wrists. You know the drill: hunched over keyboards, eyes fixed down on a screen, typing all day, driving with shoulders shrugged, never getting enough daily steps. Going to the gym is one thing, but daily maintenance of joints and tendons isn’t something most of us think to do, and certainly not with enough know-how to do it correctly. Most of the clinic’s clients are between 40 and 55 and in pain, usually lower back and hips. Many of them have tried other therapies or are adding stretching to their routine.
Which is where the professionals come in. On a sunny weekday morning, Abukhalaf takes me to a padded table to attack my various problems. A former fitness trainer, he became interested in alternative therapies to address his scoliosis, which he successfully corrected on his own using mind-body techniques, he says. He and the staff apply that holistic, whole-body thinking to the treatment of clients.
Today we work on my stiff neck, a consequence of two levels of fusion from a broken neck. Flat on my back on the table, he applies pressure to various points along my arms, shoulders, and chest, going as deep with his fingers as I allow. He occasionally asks me to provide a few seconds of resistance, and with each stretch–resist–stretch sequence I enjoy an immediate release of tension and an expansion of my range of motion. When the session is over a fast 25 minutes later, he gives me a few stretches to do at home to maintain flexibility.
I promise to do the homework. But just in case, I make another appointment. I got this knee, see …
1110 W. Broad St., Falls Church
Feature image courtesy Buzz McClain
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