Flextasy! Review by Jack Williams

Flextasy Stretches Body to the Limit

by Jack Williams (Body and Soul)

San Diego Union Tribune (Copley News Service)

Blue Dunn's idea of teaching an extension course is to take the body where it's never bended before.

If a rag doll showed you how to stretch, it might look something like Flextasy, which is what Dunn labels his classes and tapes on flexibility. It's sort of the anti-yoga, a fluid inner dance that starts with the pelvis and shivers up and down the skeleton, choreographed by audible breaths. Think of it as belly dancing meets vertical swimming.

"I see yoga as advanced, college calculus compared to what I'm teaching," Dunn said. "You can study yoga all your life and never learn all the postures. I teach 50 movements you can learn in an hour."

In Flextasy, the movements are circular, designed to create space in your joints while decompressing your soft tissue. Classic yoga, to Dunn's way of thinking, is too static, too linear, stretching ligaments and tendons, to achieve extreme contortions.

But he's not beyond incorporating what he's learned as a former yoga practitioner in Flextasy, which also includes elements of martial arts, calisthenics and Dunn's experience with hands-on body work.

At 45, with enough balance to tightrope-walk blindfolded and enough flexibility to fold his body like an accordion, Dunn has attracted a faithful following.

Bob McDowell, a 53-year-old social worker, is one convert. "Flextasy has added an extra dimension to my flexibility," he said. "I was making the moves from the start, but it took me three months to really get it."

Now he finds himself standing straighter and able to "visualize the moves, like you're a goldfish in a fishbowl."

Anita Arnold, a 77-year-old artist, found Flextasy to be similar to Pilates, a series of stretching, strengthening and balancing exercises that can involve spring-like apparatus or mats.

"It's gentle. You work at your own pace, and it seems to get to all those nooks and crannies of the body," she said.

Mark Lee, a 48-year-old computer engineer, calls Flextasy a wake-up call.

"Loss of range of motion sort of sneaks up on you," said Lee, an avid cyclist and runner. "With Flextasy, every moves flows into the next. In other stretching classes, you stop, get up and move into another position, so you're only stretching three-quarters of the time."

Flextasy is no more about repetitions than it is about rigidly holding a posture.

"You do it to the degree and level you find comfortable," Dunn said. "The next day, you may be able to do a little more. Simply, by moving differently, you improve your range of motion. As you breathe, you create a wave of relaxation that goes through the whole body. What's happening is that you're fluffing up the cartilage. The joint expands. You achieve more ease of movement and better balance."

Dunn's body awareness owes much to the pain he suffered from a herniated disk in a car accident at 21.

"I was laid up for a year and a half, and I suffered acute and chronic pain for the next 16 years," he said.

Ultimately, he learned enough about balance and body mechanics to perform and teach tightrope walking.

"All your joints and hinges have to be functional when you're on that tightrope or you can't balance," he said.