The Electric Stretch is the reason why I look and feel better at 49 than I ever have in my life. It has built my upper body strength and definition, supercharged my core, and unlocked my hips
by Will Thomas Yoga House Miami
Really. And that includes the last 19 years of regular yoga - as a practitioner, teacher, and studio owner. I’ve never been this lean, felt this balance between strength and flexibility, or been this excited to make a daily connection between my mind and body.
What exactly is it?
It’s a cooler, faster, more active approach to Bikram yoga - the 26-pose “hot yoga” system popularized in the US over the last 50 years. I started my Bikram practice in 2000 and loved being able to do it immediately despite my inflexibility and inexperience. It is a smart, whole-body sequence of poses that utilizes every muscle and joint every time - comprehensive, safe, and effective. One issue, though, is efficiency - to do traditional Bikram yoga you need a studio heated to 105 degrees+40% humidity, a qualified instructor, and about 3 hours of your day (90 minutes for the practice, cool-down time, showering, travel to and from the studio on their schedule, etc). Over the years I have watched so many people benefit from the practice but struggle to sacrifice that much of their daily schedule to keep consistency.
The Electric Stretch studio class takes about 50 minutes. And it’s a better strengthener+stretch than anything I’ve done before.
By contracting muscles in repetitions while reaching for a stretch, you can supercharge your body’s ability to use strength to create flexibility. As you move through the whole-body sequence of poses you’ll develop arm strength to release back and shoulder tension, activate core strength to open and protect lower back muscles, and fire up leg muscles to create hamstring and hips muscle flexibility. Pulsing reps through your arms, core, then legs in each pose amplifies the power of each pose - and your body’s benefit from it.
The repetitions create warmth in the muscles, removing the need for so much artificial/added heat. They shorten the time to really get in to each part of your body that needs attention and make a positive change. And they keep away autopilot mode by laser-focusing your mind on what you’re feeling in your body.
The comprehensiveness and consistency of the sequence gets you the benefit to every area of your body - every time. And the focus on creating a feeling of stretch means anyone can benefit regardless of condition or experience - if you can feel a stretch, you can do this practice. By aiming for a feeling rather than a pose, you make a very deep and quick mind-body relationship.
Is it the same every time? Isn’t that boring?
The sequence is the same - that’s how you know you’re reaching every part of your body every time. The body always feels a little different, though, so when you’re paying close attention to those changes you’re definitely not bored. Depending on how you are feeling that day, you can use it as a muscle-burning challenge or you can use it basically as a body scan - moving through the poses to find tight areas, use muscles to pump a little blood there, and move on to the next part. That improvement in your blood circulation is exactly what you need to feel relief in and connection to your body.
Will it make me lose weight?
I lost close to 50 lbs in my 50th year by finally accepting what this or any other kind of yoga is NOT: a weight-loss solution. I developed the Electric Stretch because it felt great, but I quickly realized it was so quick and cool that I was going to need a different way to maintain my weight. The answer? Food (who knew?). I finally got serious about changing my approach to food and the pounds quickly started to come off - and I realized how much mental energy I had wasted in all those years thinking that yoga was my weight loss solution. It had been in the back of my mind the whole time (“push harder, go to class, you’ll feel guilty if you skip”) that yoga was keeping me “fit.” Once I let go of that myth, the weight came off and my yoga practice soared. Now when I practice I am free to concentrate on my strength and flexibility without worrying about how many calories I’m burning. The effect is super positive and affirming, which is why I’m now attracted to it every day rather than pushed towards it by guilt. That’s a lesson many, many years in the making for me - that I’m eager to shortcut for you.
So what was your weight loss solution?
Figuring out how to feel full and satisfied on much less food. Eating richer, heavier, more filling foods - so I can be satisfied faster and not over-eat. Letting my stomach tell me how much to eat rather than the restaurant portion or the grocery store marketing suggestion or the popular myth. Realizing that my stomach gets full way before my cravings do. And paying attention to which and how much food slows me down mentally + physically. Of course clothes fitting better is nice - but the mental clarity and energy boost has been the biggest benefit.
How do I get started?
I usually teach the Electric Stretch on Sunday and Wednesday mornings as well as private lessons - where we can work on setting you up for home practice to mix in with studio classes. Studio class schedule here.
Will Thomas, Electric Stretch
About me: I took my first yoga class in 2000 during MBA school and immediately saw the long-term benefits. I loved the way the class made me feel even though I had no experience and very limited flexibility. I started a regular 5x per week practice while working in Latin American import/export and, in 2007, decided to take a 9-week, residential teacher training with my wife and 300+ other yogis in Hawaii. After apprenticing for 2 years in Miami Beach we opened our own studio in Coconut Grove in 2009. Since then, I have taught over 37,000 individuals in over 2,200 classes! I developed these short Office Stretching sessions for clients including American Airlines, BBC Worldwide, and Miami-Dade County Employees. My main focus now is helping clients release low-back and shoulder pain through stretching.