I’ve always wanted to get stretched out by another human being. It seems the ultimate luxury — lying on a table, letting someone else do the work of pulling your knees to your chest. If conserving your energy is so important that you can’t even be asked to bend over by yourself, you must be LeBron James or someone equally important.
That’s why I’m excited for a session at StretchLab, the new assisted-stretching studio in Lake View, where a so-called Flexologist™ will contort my body in ways that will supposedly improve my posture, reduce my risk of injury, and make me a generally healthier and bendier person. The studio on Southport is StretchLab’s first in the Midwest, though the chain is scouting neighborhoods for additional locations.
StretchLab flexologists (in case the trademark wasn’t clear, this is a title the company made up) are not necessarily certified massage therapists or personal trainers — I know because I asked before letting someone play Twister with my limbs — but they do go through more than 100 hours of training, learning about the muscular system and how to work with different body types at varying levels of athleticism. My flexologist is Jayah, a 20-something California transplant who also works as a yoga instructor and a physical therapy technician. Before she starts my 50-minute one-on-one stretch (the studio also offers group classes), we sit down to talk about my needs. I tell her I have tendonitis in my right Achilles that I’m hoping she can fix in the next hour. No pressure!
I lie on a bench as Jayah pushes my legs into my head and twists my body around my spine and rolls out my wrists and adjusts my neck. She notices that my right side is more flexible than my left and says she can tell I do yoga, which makes me feel nice and smug. During my favorite stretch, she has me sit up with my legs straight in front of me and pops a squat on my back to push me farther into a forward fold. The experience is more passive than yoga, more active than a massage — and comes with a price tag closer to the latter: A 50-minute session is $95, and a 25-minute one is $49; monthly memberships start at $149 for four 25-minute sessions.
I leave feeling loose, though not as limber as after 75 minutes at Yogaview. My tendonitis is about the same. To be fair, this kind of stretching doesn’t do a whole lot for it. (Jayah kindly teaches me some exercises I can do at home to help.) She tells me that StretchLab is not meant to replace yoga but to supplement it. For me, yoga is already a supplement to cardio. Oh, to be someone who has the time (and money!) to supplement my supplement. If I could, I would.