Flexibility system can help ease pain


Chicago Tribune Jan 15, 2008 by Nancy Maes

When Carrie Collins was practicing hours on end for a piano recital, she developed pain in the muscles of her neck and upper back. Living in San Francisco at the time and looking for atypical alternatives, she decided against going to a medical doctor.

Instead, she turned to Craigslist, deciding on someone who offered relief through the Meridian Flexibility System.

During the session, when the personal trainer pulled her arm or leg one way or the other, she was supposed to resist by contracting the muscles being stretched and pulling away; when he pushed, she was supposed to push back as hard as she could.

"I went to his studio apartment, which seemed a little shady," she recalled. "But his body work technique took away all the pain, and within two or three sessions I also had a flat stomach." The technique also is called resistance flexibility and strength training.

The system was developed in 1978 by Bob Cooley, who, after being seriously injured when he was hit by a car, found that traditional therapies weren't helping him heal. He has written a book and created a video, both titled "The Genius of Flexibility." Cooley has worked with Olympic medal-winners Dara Torres, a swimmer, and Eric Flaim, a speed skater. They credit the technique with helping them improve their performance.

Carrie Collins, who has since moved to Chicago, became a certified trainer in the Meridian Flexibility System, in part so she could help her sister, 25-year-old Katie Collins, who has scoliosis. Carrie Collins offers classes and private sessions in the technique, which she calls Stretch Chi, at the Helios Center for Movement, 2125 W. Belmont Ave. (773-750-5031).

Carrie Collins explained that the stretching opens up the meridians, which according to Chinese medicine control the energy, or "chi," in the body, allowing it to flow. The stretching also releases toxins in the muscles, she said.

During the classes, students do 16 self-stretches, which include resistance. While improving flexibility and strengthening the muscles, Collins said, the stretching can decrease muscle pain, improve the immune system and help relieve migraines, asthma and allergies, digestive problems and sleep disorders. Collins offered a stretch workshop at the end of the Chicago Marathon to help runners recover after the race.

Chicagoan Steven DeMar is a regular client. "I am 53 years old and I'm a pretty avid gymgoer, but I've been having a problem with hamstrings that are so tight that I almost can't stand up, and that creates back problems," he said. "The sessions with Carrie have been very beneficial. I am much more flexible, and my back is doing pretty good, and that was my mission, to operate in the world pain-free."


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