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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Active Isolated Stretching

Jun 30, 2016 02:29PM
by James Graffenberg

It’s interesting how ignorance, coupled with arrogance, can spark a natural awakening to evolve into highly valuable, useful knowledge and practice. This natural awakening may be easily accomplished by thinking outside of the box of so-called norms, the mainstream and conventional education. The previous terms may describe those under strict code of conformity and they may also have serious control issues.

The mind is innately intelligent by design. This is a story of an individual whose intelligence may be described as creative genius. Aaron Mattes, a world-class licensed kinesiotherapist and licensed massage therapist, has lived a dynamic and already legendary life. Please review his bio on his website, Forward is the gist of the story.

Mattes received his B.S. degree at Wisconsin State University Superior. His special interest was in applied kinesiology. While attending a class at the University of Illinois, Mattes posed a question to one of his professors. Mattes stated that “kyophosis (an exaggerated rounding of the back) is nothing more than thoracic flexion (a stretch to extend the back to the ceiling while on the knees and hands—like a cat). What if we take the spine into thoracic extension to correct the spinal deformity?” The professor replied, “Mattes, you idiot, you can’t do that.”

This was the spark that set Mattes to the task of turning “You can’t” to “I can and I do.” Soon after finishing college, Mattes began developing Active Isolated Stretching (AIS), beginning with the hamstrings. Discovering success with the hamstrings, Mattes used the principles of Wolff’s Law (the understanding that bone in a healthy person will adapt to the loads under which it is placed) and Sherrington’s Law (that a muscle will relax when its opposite muscle—such the biceps/triceps—is activated). Mattes applied them to virtually all muscles of the body and produced the highly effective modality called Active Isolated Stretching.

Mattes found that holding stretches for long periods of time was not only torturously slow and ineffective, but aggressive, forceful long stretches can cause injury (tears and bleeding) to muscles, fascia (connective tissue) and other structures of the body. Active Isolated Stretching is gentle, non-aggressive and non-evasive.

AIS can be easily performed by moving slowly and actively in precise planes of movement, using a gentle assist at the end range, holding the stretch for one and one-half to two seconds at the end range. The body structure is returned to the starting position and is repeated for typically seven to 10 repetitions. With each repetition, the joint increases range of motion in small increments. In this manner, the tissue is returned to what we call a long resting length. At the same time, pain is reduced or eliminated.

AIS promotes better blood and lymph flow essential to cellular health and the removal of waste products from the body. When performed accurately and appropriately, AIS releases superficial, intermediate and deep layers of fascia. The deep tissue is where our most prominent issues reside. AIS helps to resolve a multitude of musculo-skeletal injuries and many neurological injuries and conditions. AIS helps to prevent injuries, as well.

Health and well-being should be at the top of our “to do, to be” list. The take home/take everywhere is: “Always, always think outside of the box.” Wouldn’t you agree?

James Graffenberg, LMT, CPT, is a soft-tissue injury rehabilitation specialist, licensed massage therapist and certified personal trainer who practices Active Isolated Stretching (AIS), Soft-Tissue Release (STR), Myofascial Release, Russian Neuromuscular Reeducation, Swedish Massage, sports massage as well as personal training. Learn more at

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