I hear it time, and time again. “I’m not flexible.”, “I’ll never be flexible.”, “I’m too old to be flexible.” “I just want to touch my toes.” Let me tell you, you CAN be flexible, regardless of your age or current ability. Gaining flexibility takes hard work and most of all, consistency. But how many of you feel that no matter how hard you try, you just aren’t seeing results?
First, you must understand HOW the body works to become more flexible. When you stretch, you are creating micro tears in your muscles. When they heal, they heal with more elasticity than before which allows you to stretch further. So how can we make the most out of our stretching so that we are safe, but seeing optimal results?I’m giving you three tips that you should be incorporating every single timeyou stretch. Follow these, and you will begin seeing an improvement in your flexibility.
1.Warm up joint capsule
A joint is where two or more bones in the body meet which allows for mobility and flexibility. The joint capsule is the connective tissue membrane that is attached to these bones, which encloses the space in the joint. Warming up the joint capsule will allow you to find new length while stretching and explore your range of motion.
Where are your joints? And what can you do to warm them up?
Roll shoulders backwards/forward
Circle whole arm backwards/forward
Swing arms forward and back/side to side
Isolated hip rolls
Figure 8 with hips
Leg swings forward/back and side to side
Relevés/ calf raises
2.Synchronize breathing with stretching
The key to deeper stretching is deeper breathing. Breathing is what maximizes the nervous system relaxation, and the goal is to get your muscles as relaxed as possible when stretching. When you hold your breath, you are preventing oxygen from getting to your muscles. This makes your muscles tighten instead of lengthen, which is the opposite of what you are working towards.
To incorporate breathe into your stretching, follow these instructions:
Begin your stretch where you feel the most tension build up
On each exhale, move deeper into the stretch, feeling the involved muscles releasing.
Maintain this deeper stretch on the Inhale
Repeat the exhale, again moving deeper into the stretch.
Instead of holding the stretch for a given length of time, try holding the stretch for a number of breaths (begin with 6 breaths). Count to 3, slowly, for each exhale, and count to three again for each inhale. Create a rhythm with your counting so that you are moving at the same pace for the whole stretch. As you grow in your flexibility, try building onto your counting. Instead of inhaling/exhaling for 3, try doing it for 5, then 6, and so on.
3.Let gravity work in your favor
Gravity can be our biggest friend when stretching. It provides a natural force to your stretching so that you do not have to try to force your stretches yourselves, which could lead to injury. If you are not noticing a difference in your stretching, try switching your stretch routine in a way that allows gravity to work! Here are some examples:
Instead of sitting on the floor for a pike stretch, begin sitting in a chair with your legs stretched out straight in front of you. Staying in the chair, bend your upper body over to reach for your toes.
Trying to get a better straddle split or second position leap? Lay with your back on the floor, bottom against a wall, and spread your legs wide like a V against the wall. The weight of gravity will begin pulling your legs closer to the ground.
In your right and left split, ensure your back leg is off the ground, and your front leg is straight. This allows gravity to fully take over, which means you will get your splits faster.
For a nice should stretch, take a wide parallel stance with your feet. Interlock your arms behind you, and bend forward sending your arms over your head.