Yoga has exploded in popularity in recent years, and more and more people are working extra hard to achieve a more flexible body. After all, if you’re always surrounded by people who can do backbends and arm balances without so much as a thought, you’d want the same thing as well. However, flexibility training isn’t the same as training for strength or endurance.
A lot of factors influence a person’s flexibility: their genetics, athletic ability, and anatomy. But just because some people are more predisposed to be flexible doesn’t mean you can’t be as well. You need a little more practice. Regular training at a clinical Pilates or physio class can help you increase your flexibility.
1. Stretch properly
Many trainers will teach you that you need to stretch often to improve your flexibility. The science behind that is a bit more complicated, however. While stretching can impart improvements to mobility, it all depends on the type of stretching being performed. Studies have shown that static stretches, or ones where you have to hold a pose, have limited effect on flexibility. If you want to maximize your flexibility training, then you need to focus on dynamic exercises.
The mind also plays a role in a person’s flexibility. People tend to recoil when they anticipate injury, which stiffens the muscles and making them less flexible. One easy way to improve flexibility is to clear your headspace and relax.
2. Plan your training
Unlike other aspects of athleticism such as strength and speed, flexibility can take a long time to develop. Improvement is measured by subjective factors such as the ability to hold a pose for some time without discomfort, making it more difficult to track progress. If you want to maximize your training, then you need to have a plan in place.
Flexibility training starts not in the muscles, but with the spine. The neck, limbs, and hips are connected to the spine, so it makes sense to start there. Focus on perfecting basic yoga poses as well as intermediate poses that open up the shoulders. These will help improve flexibility in the leg and back region.
3. Be consistent
You have to train properly and consistently if you want to see improvements in your flexibility. It can take months or even years of regular training to see progress, but you shouldn’t lose hope. Progress is incremental, so celebrate every extra second you can hold a pose without pain.
You should also work on increasing the complexity and difficulty of your exercises. Muscle memory kicks in once you start doing an exercise often enough, so you need to vary your routine to avoid stagnation.
These fitness pointers are an excellent place to start for anyone working towards a more flexible body. Listen to your body when stretching. You know you’ve hit your limit once you feel discomfort while holding a pose. Other telltale signs you might want to look out for include clenching and holding your breath. Don’t force your body to do something it can’t.