Lost Your Flexibility? Don’t Panic – Here’s How You Can Get It Back!
When you look back on your childhood, do you recall just how flexible you used to be? You may have memories of contorting yourself into all kinds of positions on the playground monkey bars, or sitting casually with your legs behind your head. Fast-forward to adulthood, however, and the story is a little different. Getting into the splits used to be second nature to you, and now you barely get halfway down before it starts to hurt. You may find that even touching your toes becomes a bit of an effort, even if you used to be able to do it with ease. This is because nearly everyone loses their childhood flexibility unless they practice it every day of their lives. So just why is it that children are so flexible, and why do we lose flexibility as we age?
Well, first off, it is because kids have yet to strengthen the bones they were born with. These bones will eventually fuse together to make a full-functioning adult body. But in the meantime, they are simply connected by cartilage, which is what enables small children to contort into such unusual positions. This phase tends to end around the ages of ten and eleven when many children experience a growth spurt. Your teenage self might have noticed your diminishing flexibility, but probably did nothing about it. After all, we’ve all got other things on our minds throughout these all-important teenage years. Today, however, you might be longing for your much-missed flexibility, and wondering how you will ever get it back. You will be pleased to know that all is not lost, and you can regain flexibility after many years! Here are some tips on how flexibility can benefit you, and what you can do to promote it in your own body.
It is relaxing
Flexibility has close links with meditative practices such as yoga and mindfulness meditation. It is even said that being flexible can open your body up to ‘prana’, a life force which is said to invigorate the spirit. Whatever you believe, it certainly is a great way to feel more at one with your body. If you are just starting out, it is best to ease yourself back into flexibility exercises, so you don’t overdo it. Getting angry at yourself because you can’t do the splits in your first session isn’t going to be beneficial for your mind or your body. Take it slow and see what works best for you. If you are hoping to increase your flexibility and experience a sense of zen at the same time, it may be worth giving yoga a shot. There are different routines that target all different parts of the body; so, for example, you may want to focus on stretches for your hips. Find a calm and quiet spot you can practice in and follow a gentle beginner’s routine. Your body should react well to getting an opportunity to stretch out, and you will feel more self-engaged too.
It helps promote good posture
In this day and age, plenty of us live very sedentary lifestyles. We commute into work, and then sit at a desk for between eight and ten hours every day – only to return home to fall asleep on the couch after a long day of staring at a screen. Sure, it might pay your bills, but it doesn’t do much to help out your body. As well as putting on weight, you could also be prone to developing bad posture as a result of this lifestyle. Prolonged periods of bad posture can lead to serious health risks such as poor circulation, consistent neck and back pain and even conditions such as scoliosis. By becoming more flexible, you will increase the range of movement in key areas such as the spine, making it easier for you to hold good posture. If you can, set some time aside every day (in your lunch hour, perhaps), to try some flexibility exercises. They don’t need to be anything extravagant – in fact, they should be things you could try in your office without drawing too much attention to yourself. Simple neck, back and shoulder stretches can work wonders on a body that is tightened up from being sat in a chair all day. If you are a gym bunny who loves cardio, you may also notice that improving your posture and flexibility pays off when doing other exercises such as running. Flexibility training lengthens and strengthens the muscles, so you are less likely to injure yourself in a heavy cardio session. You will also reap other benefits of improving your posture – you will appear taller and more confident as well as feeling physically better.
You will get an increased range of motion
Ever feel a twinge in your back when you bend down to get something out of the kitchen cupboard? This is your body telling you that something is wrong. When we feel pain as a direct result of any activity, we tend to avoid doing that activity again in the future. Whilst this is beneficial in terms of avoiding short-term pain, it can often cause us bigger problems in the long-run. This is because purposely decreasing our range of motion means our muscles don’t get used as much, so they tighten up. It can also have a negative effect on your life as a whole, especially if you have children. After all, no one wants to be the mom who can’t run around with her kids due to tight muscles and back pain. Try and make a habit of practicing some kind of flexibility training every day – whether it’s yoga, Pilates or even some light weight work. Often, the pain we experience in our backs, necks and legs is a direct result of a lack of movement in our lifestyles. So once we get back into stretching our muscles a little more, we will find that we become much more able. Of course, if you ever have any severe pain, it’s important to visit your doctor first. But a little bit of flexibility training can go a long way in improving both your body and your lifestyle.
Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. She is the star of over 100 videos, a contributing editor at Health Magazine and a spokeswoman for many brands and causes she believes in. Kristin also appears frequently on television. A proud mom to three, she sure keeps herself busy!