If you have been trying to gain flexibility for a while but are not seeing the results you want, these tips will help!
These 6 things I have been practicing for a couple of years on my self and my students and we have seen amazing progress.
Every Body is different so it makes sense that if we all do the same things then we will all experience different results. So how will a ‘flexibility video’ from YouTube help every one? Well it probably won’t unless it covers these 6 things.
1. Only go to a slight stretch!
This is probably unexpected right? Because surely if you want to gain flexibility you have to push your body to the limits and try and go further. Wrong. When you are trying to gain flexibility you need to go until you feel a slight stretch, then you relax into it.
If you go to your maximum limit then your body starts fighting it. Your brain is always trying to keep you safe to avoid injuries and so your body can go into fight or flight mode which means your muscles actually start tensing. This does the complete opposite to lengthening which is what we want to happen when we are trying to gain flexibility.
So make sure you go to a slight stretch and hold it there. Where you can feel it but relax! The rest of the tips are going to expand on this.
Using props is a great way to help you relax into poses and not over do it.
2. Make sure there is no pain
When you are in your slight stretch, make sure there is no pain. This could be in the joints, muscles or tendons. Any sharp sensations, pins and needles or cramping in your body is not what we want it is going to send your body into that fight or flight mode we spoke about above which means less of a stretch and therefore it isn’t going to help your flexibility.
Listen to your body, do not ignore these pains. Any pain is a big NO. Loosen out until it feels like a slight stretch and then hold it there.
3. Breathe into it
Above we spoke about no pain but this doesn’t include discomfort. If you are trying to gain flexibility you will experience a little discomfort. You are stretching the muscle and you are probably not used to holding these positions. This is where we need to find the comfort in the discomfort. We want to relax into it and make sure our bodies do not tense. How do we do this? We breathe.
Focusing on your breath is the best thing you can do when you are holding a pose and trying to relax into it. The best way to do this is by taking long inhales and even longer exhales. Every time you exhale it sends a message to your brain to relax and this helps to lengthen the muscles. So find that stretch and breathe into it.
A great thing to do is find an animation like the one below where you can follow the breath to make sure you can slow your breathing. Another way to do this is to simple count the breath. Inhale for 4 and exhale for 4.
4. Feel it, notice what’s going on
The most important thing you can do for your body is to understand it and listen to it. So when you are in these positions make sure you are noticing what is going on. Are you starting to breath quicker, cramp up, feel stuck. These sensations are normally when you are in a position that you are not used to being in for a long time. So listen in and correct it. Go through the stages above.
Make sure you feel a slight stretch, make sure there is no pain, breath into it and don’t feel stuck. You are allowed to move. Come out of a pose slightly and maybe you go back into it, maybe you don’t. Remember if you send your body into that fight or flight response you are not going to be gaining flexibility, the body needs to be relaxed for this to happen. So listen in!
5. Work on the WHOLE body
The top 4 tips are the best way and fastest way to gain flexibility in your own unique body but one more thing that will help is to make sure you are working on the whole body. Sometimes we can feel tight in one area when actually its the surrounding muscles that are tight and they are pulling on the one you think is tight.
It’s a little bit like if you have ever had a sports massage. You may feel really tight in one place but then when the masseuse moves to another place you feel the tension somewhere you didn’t expect.
So work on all the surrounding muscles and you will soon notice a major difference!
6. The last thing I want to mention is to stay consistent
Staying consistent is the fastest way to gain flexibility safely and to be able to get them yoga poses that you want to achieve. The good thing is this doesn’t mean you need to commit your life to gain flexibility and it’s going to take up all your time.
5 minutes a day is better than 1 hour a week. Consistency really is key when it comes to flexibility. When you are stretching the muscles what you are really doing is tearing them slightly and they are reforming in their new lengthened state (I know this doesn’t sound very pleasant). This is done in a safe way when you do the steps above steps but staying consistent means you are building on that stretch and your not letting it shrink back and restretching it constantly.
If you need help with staying consistent then check out my 28 day checklist below with short 5 minute classes to help you start to build up that yoga habit and start seeing a difference in your flexibility.