As I lay strapped to a soft leather bench, fully clothed, but feeling somehow very vulnerable, I ask myself, what is this place? And what am I doing here?
The slim reporter’s notebook lying nearby suggests that I am here on assignment, while the illustrations of flayed human musculature hanging off the wall imply that this place is Park Slope’s strange new health salon, Stretched Out. I’m not sure exactly what Stretched Out — a so-called “stretching studio” — is, but I gather it’s something like a massage parlor crossed with a medieval dungeon.
“This is going to be unpleasant,” Brian Betzu, my handler for this session, warns me.
Before I can respond, Betzu digs his elbow deep into the meaty parts of my hip, and buries it there for what feels like one of the longer minutes of my life. Amid the torment, I recall four years of college, unpaid internships, and working nights as a cashier at Trader Joe’s to subsidize days spent freelancing. I think to myself, for this?!
But before the agony can fully manifest as a bonafide quarter-life crisis, Betzu removes his elbow and the pain in my leg is replaced by a profound wave of relief. I can’t tell if it’s simply the absence of intense pain, or if my track pants-wearing handler knocked something loose, but I can honestly say that, in that moment, my leg felt pretty good. Then he started on my other limbs, and the agony continued.
Stretched Out is John Brancato’s second stretching studio — it follows his Bay Ridge location on 88th Street — where therapists practice Isolated Stretching, a form of physical therapy designed to improve flexibility and motion, enhance circulation and blood flow, and prevent pain by increasing the elasticity of the muscle joints, according to Brancato.
Isolated stretching is frequently employed by athletes to increase their range of motion and protect against injury, but doubles as an effective counter to the chronic pain that results from the type of sedentary lifestyle led by yours truly, according to Brancato.
Whether any amount of stretching can undo long hours spent hunched over a keyboard is beyond the scope of this humble article, but I can report that my torture at the hands of Betzu left me feeling more flexible heading out than I felt coming in. That said, I can think of a few more pleasant ways to spend a half-hour.
Get your stretch on at Stretched Out [917 Eighth Ave. at Ninth Street in Park Slope, (347) 578-7108, www.stretchedoutbrooklyn.com] $125 for an hour-long evaluation.