After I released my best-selling DVD Secrets of Splits & Flexibility, daily emails started coming in from all over the world with questions asking how one can become flexible enough to get flat into the splits.
Here are some important tips that I share with my clients and viewers that can help improve flexibility:
1. Stretches should be done in the proper order. Honor the body by stretching it gently. The more time you take to stretch increases your ability to go deeper into the splits. Start with the easier ones and save the intense positions for last.
2. Just concentrating on the hamstrings is not enough. Since everything is connected it makes a big difference to stretch the upper body first then quadriceps, groin, inner thighs, outer hips, calves, waist, hamstrings and back muscles.
2. Consistency. If you go to a new place with your flexibility, this is your body's new set point. Or if you used to be flexible, the good news is your body has muscle memory and you can get it back. When you make this a regular part of your routine, you should see noticeable progress.
3. Never bounce. Bouncing is an old outdated method that can lead to pulled muscles and injury. Breathe instead of force.
4. Visualization. If you can see it, you can be it. The mind controls the body.
5. Tiring out the muscles. Resistance training helps the muscle release when one inhales deeply and exhales into the stretch.
6. Age does not matter (only if you think it does). Anyone can increase flexibility at any age.
7. Sleep. The body recovers, heals and processes while we sleep. It is important to give your body and mind the gift of rest and rejuvenation.
8. Stretch the calf muscles first, with a flexed foot. This will help get into the hamstrings and up into the back. Using both pointed and then a flexed foot while stretching works different muscles and brings a more even balance to your stretching session.
9. Supplements and massage can be helpful. Listen to your body's inner guidance system.
It helps to have a trained professional spot you and take you deeper into the stretches. In my DVDs I show how to use walls and yoga straps to hold my legs in place. Counter tops also work as ballet bars.
I recently performed in a DVD to go with the StretchGym, which is also a great training tool for dancers, gymnast, martial artist and serious athletes. For more information on the StretchGym www.stretchgym.com.
Courtesy of StretchGym. Photo by Robert Garrett. Arabesque demonstrated by: Mattie Woo