Stretch, Stretch, Baby

Assisted Stretching Studio StretchLab Opens in Issaquah

You read that right—stretching studio.

By Angela Cabotaje September 1, 2022

We have no shortage of niche fitness options in Seattle. We have rowing gyms, cycling gyms, climbing gyms, and barre. We have AI-assisted weight training and VR-led yoga. We birthed Dance Church

Now we can add stretching studios to that list. Yes, you read that right. On August 30, StretchLab stretched (sorry) to its third Seattle-area location in Issaquah, with owners Raj Sharma and Arushi Upadhyay planning to expand to Factoria or Mercer Island in the next six months and another to-be-determined Eastside location not long after. Existing Redmond and Kirkland StretchLabs are owned separately, with another owner planning a franchise location for South Lake Union.

Skeptics may scoff—I sure did—at the very idea of a stretching studio. And with a monthly membership rate of $179–299 for four 25- or 50-minute sessions, it's not cheap. (There's even a premium twice-weekly $559 plan.) Why fork over that much to get help limbering up your muscles when a free YouTube video from your living room floor will do? 

Sharma and Upadhyay, longtime friends of over 20 years, give soft smiles when I ask this. They probably get this question a lot. "Assisted stretching, it's not new," Sharma says. "It's been around for decades. It's been very limited to the pro athletes—all the pro athletes do it—and our mission is to democratize it."

Stretching, Upadhyay adds, is gaining importance in the health and wellness realm to help with overall mobility, flexibility, and injury prevention. Assisted stretching with the help of one of StretchLab's "flexologists" can not only give you a deeper stretch but also a more customizable, targeted plan to help reach your fitness goals, the owners say.

It works like this: StretchLab newcomers meet with a flexologist, discuss their wellness goals, and then head past the rows of padded tables to a tablet mounted on the wall. After a quick VR scan, the tablet leads you to perform three squats, eventually tabulating a score based on your symmetry, posture, mobility, and activation. From there, the StretchLab pro leads you to one of those tables and guides you through a series of stretches.

The technical term is "proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching," but Sharma and Upadhyay simply call it "push and release." It's basically a stretch hold for three breaths followed by a resistance or push for three breaths. "And then we do another round of the same stretch, which helps them get a deeper stretch and they're able to go beyond what they were doing earlier," Upadhyay says.

StretchLab isn't the first to bring the assisted stretching concept to the Seattle area. The Stretch 22 brand has four locations across Seattle and the Eastside, with a similar PNF stretching philosophy, similar pricing, and, yes, a similar buzzy name for their employees ("stretchologists"). 

Still, Sharma and Upadhyay point out that the early interest in their Issaquah location proves there's plenty of stretching to go around. By their soft opening, they had signed up 205 members ranging in age from an 11-year-old rhythmic gymnast to a 91-year-old wheelchair user. 

"As our life spans increase, we want to be as mobile as possible for as long as possible," Sharma says. "That's the core mission: to help people with their mobility and flexibility for the longest period possible."

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