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Lastics: A new way to stretch

I grew up in the ’80s, when home exercise videos meant big hair, leotard-clad dance moves, and the same stretching routine after every workout. Those cookie-cutter stretching moves have followed me through decades of dance, martial arts, and group exercise classes. So when I set out to review Lastics — a DVD version of the stretching program pioneered and taught in New York by founder Donna Flagg — I expected more of the same. Boy, was I wrong.

Woman stretching

Enter Lastics

Flagg’s method — “Nothing else should move … just find it inside your body and pull,” she advises — teaches you to be aware of your own body and maneuver it through space, a skill that will serve you well in everything from athletics to avoiding injury in everyday life. But it’s not exactly hands-off; you’ll still use your hands, arms and even your head to guide your body through every twist and turn.

The workout (actually, a series of four workouts) turns into one long stretch for the entire body, with a sequence of small, simple shifts that move the focus from one muscle to the next. The small details — like which way you tilt your head — really do make a difference. The shifts in position come quickly enough that you have to pay attention or you’ll miss something vital, but not so fast that you feel overwhelmed.

Stretch to connect mind and body

It’s hard not to get envious when Flagg and her assistant reach their heads down to their knees and tuck their arms under their legs, right up to the elbow. Especially if you used to be able to do that, fully expect to be able to do that and then — erk! — get brought up short by hamstrings that are a lot tighter than you remembered. It’s tempting to cheat, bending your knees or slumping your back so that you look like the on-camera models.

But the proximity of your head and knees would be the only thing about your body that resembles theirs. Instead of echoing their lean, graceful lines, cheating makes the rest of your body look like a crumpled tin can. When you pay attention to Flagg’s subtle corrections, though, suddenly you’re there — stretching but not contorted, and graceful even if you can’t touch your toes yet.

The only quibble

Perplexingly, there’s no DVD menu; the disc starts playing automatically when inserted, with a short introduction; then all four workouts (each of which targets a different body part) in sequence. That’s my only complaint, and when compared to how effectively Lastics teaches you to move and be aware of your own body, it’s a small one.

Watch: Downward dog yoga pose

Today on the Daily Dish, we teach you how to do the downward dog yoga pose.

More ways to get flexible

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The thinner thighs workout
No OM Yoga: Modern yoga for women on the go

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