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Big Stretch Rules and the Psychopath

AI generated image of a brown and white dog doing yoga

(Or how suffering in exercise is not the answer to happiness)

AI generated image of a brown and white dog doing yoga

I’ve loved sharing this story with you all over the last few months. But here it is in writing. And it is a true story.

Basically, I called my wife a psychopath. And I survived. But that’s not where it started (or ended).

You see, there was this evening we were sitting in our loungeroom together. And our dog, MacGyver (he’s so cute and old) stretched and in the voice reserved specifically for talking my dog I said “Aw, that’s a big stretch”. To which my wife said “Really!”

It was one of those amazing doggy stretches where every limb stretched out, there was a massive yawn at the same time, and his little toe beans splayed apart and he quivered in the stretch. Followed by a look of satisfaction.

Well, there was much discussion as I exclaimed my disappointment that she didn’t comment on “the big stretch”, or “the big yawn.” It’s the “Big Stretch Rule” of pet ownership. Commenting on the big stretch is mandatory. And anyone who doesn’t recognise the big stretch is most obviously a psychopath. Or something along those lines.

Have you ever paid attention to when an animal stretches? This stretch seems to emanate from their core, travelling out through their limbs, following which they slink off or flop down looking incredibly chill for their efforts. There’s no one saying “Hold it! Hold It! Deeper! 10 more seconds! Feel the burn!”.

And it makes me wonder why we turn something as satisfying as stretching, or any other physical activity for that matter, into a form of suffering.

I get that personal achievements are fulfilling. Walking that 25km trek. Running that half marathon for the first time. Lifting that heavy thing and putting it down again in the name of being fitter, stronger, and more able. Personal achievements sit firmly in the Maslow Hierarchy of basic human needs.

But not all physical activity has to be about productivity and suffering. Why do we feel we have to suffer to achieve? It’s not why I move my body anyway.

Walking, cycling, snorkeling – I do these things because they bring me joy. Or because there is a big fat vanilla slice waiting for me at the end of the day.

And I stretch because I like that it makes me feel good. I like feeling good.

Next time you go to stretch. Do a big stretch. Let yourself quiver with satisfaction and enjoy the warmth that trickles from your soul and spreads out through your limbs. Do a big stretch.

And if you live with someone, and they stretch. Why not tell them “Aw, that’s a big stretch!” It just might make their day.

David Clayton is the Principal Remedial Therapist at Myomasters Massage located in Hope Valley in the north east of Adelaide.  He has a passion for supporting humans to live the lives they were to born to live using massage and soft tissue therapies.  He has a particular interest in assisting people to recover from stress, anxiety and trauma using compassionate and nurturing touch.