The Demon that is… Inflexibility

Unless you have a background in dance or gymnastics or are lucky enough to be one of those naturally flexible people, like me, you struggle with inflexibility/tightness. My hamstrings are impossibly tight, so tight I have never been able to touch my toes, and many times I’ve found myself frustrated with how inflexible I am.

I assumed yoga would cure my inflexibility, and I imagined myself doing perfect forward folds after a few months of regular practice. But after a few months, while I noticed more flexibility, especially in my shoulders and upper body, my hamstrings stayed tight so I decided to ask a professional, Jami Lashbrook, (fingers crossed that she would have a solution).

Jami has taught yoga, along with other group fitness classes, at 24 Hour Fitness for 7 years and holds both a Group Fitness Certification and a certificate in Mat Pilates through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). She currently writes a fitness blog, enjoys running, and is always looking for new ways to stay fit and healthy.

From your experience, what do you recommend for people who are really inflexible? I think the best thing to do is constantly work on your flexibility. This does not mean overdoing it, but daily stretching is very helpful. Consistent attendance of yoga will also improve flexibility.

Are there certain things that can help increase flexibility? It’s a slow process, but flexibility can improve. When I say improve, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will ever be flexible like Gumby. You may be able to [get] closer to touching the floor in a Forward Fold or go deeper in a Warrior pose. Remember, it’s not about wrapping your leg around your neck. It’s about the small improvements over time. Having unrealistic expectations is detrimental to your practice.

What’s one thing you’d tell people who struggle with inflexibility/tightness (such as hamstrings, shoulders, hips)? Number 1 is to not have unrealistic expectations of your body. Working at the gym, I had students of all different ages and fitness levels as well as yoga experience. I always told them to work at their level. It’s good to challenge yourself, but don’t expect to be able to grab your toe while standing up straight and bring your leg to the side right away or maybe ever.

Jami’s a good sport and gave me 2: Number 2 is to constantly work on it. Stretch, do yoga, go to Pilates. If there is a part of your body (lately mine is the hip flexors because I run) that is tight, find stretches that will loosen up those muscles. Make it part of your daily routine. The great part about stretching, unlike weight training, [is] you can do it daily and not worry about injury. Just make sure you are stretching properly.

Any final thoughts? I believe that flexibility improves over time with daily stretching. I’ve seen students improve over time and practice and have noticed it with my own body. Remember also that you can lose that flexibility, too. Just like strength and cardiovascular, you lose it if you don’t use it!

For more fitness advice, you can follow Jami on Twitter @jamiann70. You can also follow her Finding Fitness blog at http://jamilashbrookfindingfitness.blogspot.com/

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Comments
2 Responses to “The Demon that is… Inflexibility”
  1. bornbyariver says:

    thanks for posting this. I’m always the one who can only imperceptibly bend forward in folds, especially in spread-eagle asana. I blame it on marathon running, even though I haven’t done that in over 5 years, it seems like it permanently wound me tightly.

  2. I’m another imperceptible forward bend person! And I’ve been doing yoga for about a quarter century. Have been thinking about flexibility (and patience, and time…) a lot recently – much of my hip/calf/hamstring tightness does originate in many years horse-riding and some years running – but I’ve more recently realised anatomy plays an interesting role. Have you seen Paul Grilley’s work/photos? Really worth checking out, if you’ve not come across already.

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