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Stretching is no longer a warmup, it’s the workout

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Bryan Smith

Yamuna Zake, president and founder of Yamuna Body Rolling, leads instructors through body rolling techniques in her studio in the Village.

Most people think of stretching like dessert — it might make you feel good, it’s optional, and it’s probably not worth it.

But when we found ourselves strapped to a table bending our stomach into a pretzel, while Stretch Zone practitioner Taisha Cortes uses her full body weight to eject tension from our hip flexors, we realized it was our imagination that hadn’t stretched far enough.

With most fitness classes in New York City devoting less than five minutes to pre- and post-workout stretching, a series of new programs have emerged that concentrate solely on flexibility and expanding our range of motion.

And they don’t come cheap.

Jess Rochwarger (black top) teaches Daily News writer Molly Friedman during a stretching class at Physique 57.

Enid Alvarez/New York Daily News

Jess Rochwarger (black top) teaches Daily News writer Molly Friedman during a stretching class at Physique 57.

At YeloSpa in midtown, a 15-minute Stretch Zone session with Cortes means forking over $ 36, and an hour costs $ 145.

But the creators say it’s well worth it.

“Everyone sits for 50% of the waking hours in a seated position,” says Stretch Zone inventor Jordan Gold. “The body makes you the shape of a chair. We’re the anti-chair method.”

But Yelospa owner Nicholas Ronco, who has taken 10 sessions so far, says getting your body stretched properly is about much more than impressing the girl on the next yoga mat with your new Gumby-like bendiness.

Yamuna Zake of Yamuna Body Rolling leads instructors through body rolling techniques in her studio on Perry St.

Bryan Smith

Yamuna Zake of Yamuna Body Rolling leads instructors through body rolling techniques in her studio on Perry St.

“Stretching can be very emotional,” he says. “When they start going into certain zones, you feel this emotional thing happening.”

For Ronco, having his arm yanked nearly out of its socket by a practitioner was like hopping a flight to his childhood home.

“I come from Paris,” he says, “and during the session I kept getting flashes of scenes from Paris, places that I know in Paris. It’s bringing up these kinds of things.”

Across Fifth Ave., Physique 57 offers a stretch class of its own for $ 25. Clients take their places around the ballet barre as instructor Jessica Rochwarger leads them through typical yoga twists. Everyone wears socks and moves at their own pace.

Jess Rochwarger (r.) teaches a stretching class at Physique 57.

Enid Alvarez/New York Daily News

Jess Rochwarger (r.) teaches a stretching class at Physique 57.

“So often we focus on how exercise will make us look but it’s just as important to make sure we feel good in our bodies,” says Rochwarger. “Stretching helps to create that balance.”

Of course, the more innovative approaches to stretching include tools — like the Stretch Zone table and straps.

At Yamuna Body Rolling studio in the West Village, classgoers can sign up for 15 minutes dedicated to stretching out the muscles in their feet. Using a tiny ball that resembles a spiky sea creature, you can release tension in the toes for $ 10.

For $ 20, Yamuna offers full body stretching with props more familiar with personal training — the foam roller and soft medicine ball.

Instructors twist on the mats as Yamuna Zake shows them her body rolling moves.

Bryan Smith

Instructors twist on the mats as Yamuna Zake shows them her body rolling moves.

According to Gold, regular gym rats don’t actually know the ins and outs of stretching on their own.

“You can’t isolate these muscles by yourself,” he says. “You can’t isolate them in order. The body always goes to the path of least resistance, and people do too.”

And yet, the allure of contorting your body in seemingly impossible shapes holds strong. Ronco admits to being giddy over one benefit in particular.

“Being able to touch your toes is cool.”

Lastics classes also teach flexibility training.

Lastics classes also teach flexibility training.

For more info:

Stretch Zone at YeloSpa: (212) 245-8235; yelospa.com

Physique 57: (212) 399-0570; physique57.com

Yamuna Body Rolling: (212) 633-2143; yamunabodyrolling.com


Lifestyle – NY Daily News

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