Few people are flexible by nature. Others (like me) have to work hard to gain every extra millimeter.
When I was a child (about 20 years ago), I was in the gym and was quite flexible. Then I practiced other more physical sports, then nothing for 2 years before I got in pole dance. During that years my flexibility had time to disappear.
Those who remember my new flexibility start can confirm that the state of my flexibility was inexistent… Until the day I decided to work on it more seriously. Since then there has been more than 4 years of personal practice and almost 1 year as a teacher at Keelin Pro studio where I train. I ended up making a small list of tips that help me progress. I use them in my classes and my regular students see their flexibility improve faster.
At the time of today, I have 7 tips to share with you:
1. Be regular
Flexibility and regularity are almost synonyms, especially for stiff people like me. My muscles stiffen quickly as soon as I do physical exercises, eat not healthy food, do not rest enough, etc. If you’re like me and want to progress fast enough, add at least 1 intensive stretching session per week to your schedule.
2. Set intermediate goals and take pictures of your evolution
Try not to be in a hurry for fast results, set an achievable goal and cut it into intermediate goals. For example if you want to have a split but you are far from the ground, fix smaller objectives to reach for each step (30, 20, 10, 5, 0 centimeters from the ground). Achieving first goals quickly will give you the motivation to work even harder.
And of course, it is essential to take pictures of your progress. Sometimes we realize our progress only when we look at the pictures.
3. Do not go into extreme pain (be patient)
Personally, I am against the old-fashioned wild method making you scream of pain. I consider that the flexibility must bring pleasure (even if it hurts a little on the moment). A strong pain sends a signal to the brain that it damages the body and gives the opposite result: we tense and we start to hate stretching.
On the other hand, if you block in the position when the stretch hurts slightly and you feel strong tension without going to the excruciating pain, little by little your muscles will get used and will find it almost pleasant.
Be patient. We already see enough people who rush and hurt themselves. It’s better to take your time but get there without injuries. 😉
4. Try to relax while stretching
When in addition to point 3 you manage to relax in the stretching position, breathe deeply and make a Buddha smile (that makes my students laugh a lot when I say that ^^ but jokes aside it works really well!), you give to your muscles a message “Everything is fine, it’s good to stretch”.
Stay in each position for a moment, breathing deeply and feeling your muscles lengthen. This is one of the techniques I use regularly in my classes: a moment of relaxation before the session and breathing in each position. It looks like nothing but it’ does a lot!
5. Hydrate yourself
Hydration is very important. I talked about it thoroughly in this article.
Regarding the flexibility, it helps eliminate toxins and increase the elasticity of the muscles.
6. Take flexibility classes
Sometimes it’s complicated to organize yourself: no time, no ideas of exercises, no motivation…. My students often say: “In class, we are going much further than at home! ”
It’s true, no matter the discipline: you do not need to think, look for exercises and test them before you find those who really work. And the atmosphere of the group and the presence of a coach always push you a little further.
7. Participate in Marco Oranje’s workshop
It should be The Tip # 1 but I kept the best for the end. The meeting with Marco was the real start of my journey into the world of flexibility. Thanks to him, I rediscovered the flexibility of my back, which I thought I have lost forever.
Marco’s teaching is built around ultra-efficient techniques. The work of the body is very different from the usual techniques, with a focus on safety. I completely adopted his techniques and use them for me and for my students, mixing them with yoga and some other stuff.
In short, you have understood, a workshop with Marco is essential. I do not miss one in the area, when I am available. Since the very beginning I have done at least ten and I look forward for the next!
Marco Oranje, contorsionist. Photo credits : Karo Cottier Photography
These are the tips that help me progress. I hope they will be useful to you as well. 😉
P.S. I also advise you to invest in a good yoga mat that does not slide and does not stretch. It is essential to work the bridges safely. Personally I use a mat by Lolë, I think the price / quality ratio is correct.
And just to show you the progress that one can get even with bad flexibility practicing regularly and participation in Marco’s workshops, I share with you a small pic of my progress. 😉