Since ancient times people have discovered, explored and practiced stretching. Nowadays, almost everybody, from athletes to office workers have experienced some kind of stiffness, pain, muscle spasm. What I know for myself and from my practice is that if one has some flexibility, he would not mind stretching but if he does not, just the fact that he "has to suffer for an hour by dropping-in a yoga class" , makes him avoid any simple attempt of flexibility training. Actually, what I know from experience is that simple activity called stretching encompasses so much that I will try to summarize it in the shortest way possible. From a physiological perspective, the stretching begins with the basic unit of contraction in the muscle fiber, the sarcomere. When the sarcomere contracts the area of overlap of myosin and actin increases (thick and thin fillaments of the sarcomere) , and when it stretches the area in sacromere decreases allowing the muscles fiber to elongate. Once the muscle fiber reaches its maximum resting length , the stretch is transferred to the adjacent soft tissue structures. It is very important to point out here that muscle fiber does not function by itself. In order for a certain movement to happen, different muscle fibers of one particular muscle or a group of muscles are recruited to make it happen. So imagine stertching hundreds of muscle fibers to its full length and then the connective tissue (fascia, tendons, etc.) take over the elongation.
Here I would like to mention about another important anatomical relation. A human body would not be able to do anything without the command center (the brain and the nervous system). In every muscle there is a spot where every muscle fiber is attached to a nerve ending (called neuromuscular junction). That connection specifically is responsible for sending a message to the brain, which is returned back to the junction with "instruction" to the muscle what to do. Therefore, stretching not only elongates the muscle fiber, it does relaxes it On the site where there is soft tissue tension in a specific area disturbs the brain and it sends signals for disturbing discomfort or pain. Stretching also relaxes the mind, since that soft tissue discomfort has been "worked on".
Stretching, mind, breathing pattern, meridians, and personality types...
Well, if you have not heard it before, WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT. So group stretching does not help all of us as we do have different personalities, different body types, different flexibility, and our active and professional life is different. Taking this into account why group yoga classes wont be helpful for everyone. First because what might help one, it might injure someone else. Why am I telling you this? Because every body needs a proper "functional reading" and then stretches should be applied accordingly...not just like "aww, you like this stretch, lets do it" NO. And I can not only help you with reading the imbalances of your body but actually take the time and do something about it by stretching what it does need to be stretched. Some muscle testing is usually performed as well.
I pointed already the close correlation between muscles and nervous system. What comes first actually is breading, which to me is the most important. When a baby was born the first thing he does is taking a breath. The baby breading differs significantly from an adult breathing pattern. Why? A baby doe not have to worry about money, does not have to go to work, to deal with all the stress an adult has to. He does not have to sit in an office chair in front of the computer for 8 hours straight, right?
In my practice I often work with people who engage in breathing muscles that are secondary for breathing. And that "little" detail changes everything. It reflects the blood oxygenation, then how much blood gets supplied to the muscle fiber or it puts the muscle in starvation. So, you see the connection, breathing -> muscle (soft tissue) nutrition -> proper muscle /soft tissue elongation -> relaxed mind.
Last but not least, according to the TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) there is a link between muscles and energy linking meridian. When we stretch specific muscle groups we also stretch the corresponding energy meridian and connected respectively inner organ. Yes, the followers of the TCM believe we can affect the kidney (the organ) positively by stretching the corresponding meridian.
Now, after sharing so much information with you, I hope you understand that if you come for stretching to Massage by Maya, it's not going to be a random self-stretching time, that you could possibly do on your own. Vice-versa, there will be some postural assessment included, static and functional, and then taking all necessary factors into account, I will proceed to stretching.
Almost everyone would benefit from stretching but there are groups of people that need to take precautions. As we are talking about assisted stretching, people with stress fractures need to be extremely careful and mention things like that prior to the appointment, as my rule is :DO NO HARM!
I am not going to mention what an important role the stretching plays in the muscle/tendon/ligament/fascia recovery. Therefore, regardless your age, if you are planning to load your muscles with repetitive sports activity, my advice to you is to maintain the muscle flexibility on regular basis, as the full range of motion of your joints depends on it., which is going to promote balance and reduce the chances of injuries.