Flexibility isn't something that I naturally have. I practiced ballet, modern, jazz, tap and break dancing for over 10 years and still was never able to do the splits!
After stopping dancing I resigned to the fact that I will never be able to be flexible. That was until I got heavily into yoga and became determined to progress my poses that were restricted by my lack of flexibility. I tried to push my muscles into stretching but I had little success with my progress!
Last year I went on a fitness retreat that was run by Amanda Bisk, I had been following her for some time on Instagram and thought a retreat with her would be fun. In preparation for my trip I ended up coming across her stretching guide, so I decided to get it and give it a go before I went. The guide involves doing key stretches throughout your entire body every day. I got into the routine of doing them just before I went to bed on my bedroom floor and it was easy to stick to. These are some of the benefits I got from stretching through her guide;
I know this one sounds obvious but I really didn't understand how much easier everything could be when you have flexibility. I was always under the impression that being flexible just meant that you could do amazing poses and shapes with your body, while they are amazing moves I didn't think flexibility had any impact your everyday life. I learnt I was wrong. As my flexibility has improved everything is easier to do, your body begins to move with so much ease. My muscles do not get tight or sore as much as they used to, running is easier, my posture is better, and most of all the every day movements that I do feel more natural and kind on my joints. Simple things like tying up my shoe, scratching my own back, picking things up from the floor, applying self tan to my entire body! The best way to describe it is that I feel like a well oiled machine, my body moves naturally with less tension, stiffness or restrictions.
It's a de-stresser.
I have discovered that just how stress can impact your body by causing it to tense up, stretching out your body can impact your state of mind and mood causing you to de-stress. I think this works on two levels, one by literally taking the tension out of your body but also by methodically going through the stretches forces your mind to be singly focused on your body which like meditation helps you to de-stress.
I found that from stretching religiously before bed that it helped me to have a deeper more restful sleep. When you stretch your entire body it makes you literally feel warm inside, you can feel the difference in blood flow in your body. I think the flushing of fresh oxygenated blood getting to the tips of your fingers, toes and into your brain is what helps aid a quality sleep.
Compliments your training.
As my body increased its mobility I found my training could further progress too. By opening up my hips and quads I can continue increase my running and impact training, I am not having to slow down or get hip and knee pains and injuries from too much impact movement. By opening up my chest, shoulders and carves I have found a real improvement in my weight training, mainly because I can get so much deeper into a movement without compromising my stability. Of course there is also the obvious benefit of my yoga improving and the awesome satisfaction of improving something that I thought I could never do.
Photos on the left were at my fitness retreat, photos on the right is 3 months later. In my dancers pose not only has by splits progressed but so has by back bend. You can see in my bridge pose that my shoulders and chest have opened up so much more allowing my head to come out in front of my arms in this pose, something was was impossible to do when I started.
I still have some way to go with my flexibility goals, it's a slow but rewarding process.
If your thinking about working on your flexibility I urge you to give it a go, and Amanda Bisk's stretching guide is a great way to start if you are stuck with what do or lacking motivation. Happy stretching !