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What is MIS?
Myofascial Integrated Stretching (MIS) is a comprehensive scientific approach to stretching that places a strong emphasis on holistic balance and harmony of the body, mind, and emotions while optimally increasing range of motion. It is designed to enhance flexibility, improve the health of myofascial tissues, and promote overall well-being.
Key Principles of MIS:
- Philosophical Foundation: MIS draws inspiration from Chinese Taoist philosophy, which centers on balance and harmony. This philosophy teaches that balance is achieved by exploring and understanding the spectrum of opposing qualities, such as yin and yang.
- Stretching and Myofascia: MIS is rooted in the science of stretching and understanding the myofascial system, which encompasses muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascial sheets surrounding these structures. The practice emphasizes the importance of properly warming up the muscles and fascia to enhance glide and improve the health of these tissues.
- Warm-up: Before static stretching, MIS includes a warm-up phase to increase the suppleness of myofascial tissues, encourage glide, and improve joint mobility. This phase involves gentle bouncing, oscillating movements, concentric articular rotations, and pandiculation.
- Stretching Duration: In MIS, the recommended duration for holding stretches is generally around 30 seconds per singular stretch, with no stretch exceeding 60 seconds. This approach is based on scientific studies suggesting that extended stretching beyond this time frame has negligible effects on increasing range of motion, and the most effective ROM gains are within 20-40 seconds.
- Posture Sequencing: MIS sequences the entire body. Ideally, we want to stretch the whole body, each part, for about two minutes, five to six days per week. Pose order considers the spinal movement, especially if sequencing forward folds and backbends. Because we hold these poses in the plasticity range, we want to avoid practicing backbends followed by forward folds or vice versa. The general order is as follows: Backbends/shoulder openers (superficial front line, deep front line, and arm lines), hip openers (functional lines and deep front lines), side bends (lateral line and ipsilateral functional line), forward folds (superficial back line, deep front lines), and twists (spiral line).
- Repetitive Postures: Stretches are generally repeated two to three times to encourage muscle and fascial pliability. This allows the nervous system to relax and increase stretch tolerance while staying within the effective time range of singular holds, which allows maximum gains in ROM while honoring optimal stretch duration.
- Tuning Poses: In MIS, poses can be “tuned” to modify the tension along specific myofascial meridians. Tuning adjusts joint positions through various types of movements to target different muscles and lines of tension within the myofascia. Tuning creates a more holistic or uniform stretch along the desired meridian.
- Monoarticular and Polyarticular Stretches: MIS incorporates monoarticular stretches (focusing on a single muscle or joint) and polyarticular stretches (involving multiple joints and muscles) to provide a well-rounded approach to stretching.
- Discomfort Is Not Ideal: MIS discourages the pursuit of discomfort during stretching. It emphasizes that stretching should never be painful, and there is no need to endure intense discomfort or pain in any posture. The philosophy of MIS suggests that discomfort, especially when it escalates into pain, is the body’s way of signaling that something may be wrong or that the stretch may not be safe or effective.
- Gentle Sensation: Instead of pushing the limits of discomfort, MIS encourages practitioners to explore a mild and moderate sensation of stretch or pressure. The emphasis is on staying within a range that is challenging but not overly intense. This approach promotes the idea that stretching can be both effective and gentle on the body.
- Listening to the Body: MIS encourages listening to the body. If a practitioner experiences intense discomfort or pain during a stretch, they are encouraged to back off from the posture, re-evaluate their alignment, or ultimately exit the pose. The practice respects the body’s signals and prioritizes safety.
- Mindful and Controlled Stretching: MIS emphasizes slow, controlled stretching, allowing the nervous system to adjust to the increase in tissue length gradually. This approach helps to avoid triggering the body’s fight-or-flight response, which can occur with excessive discomfort.