As splits have been most in demand the past week, we decided to dive a bit deeper into the topic of flexibility. Did you ever wonder why some people are so flexible, with no effort? While others stretch daily and still only see little to no improvement? If you did - here comes the answer:
What is flexibility actually?
Flexibility refers to a person’s range of motion involving the joints and muscles. It’s essential to carry out daily activities, such as getting out of bed - yes seriously, walking - aha right, and bending down to tie your shoes - if you don't do hook and loop!
Factors that influence one’s flexibility:
x Gender: Women’s bodies are designed to give birth. This allows the female anatomy to expand easier, especially around the hips - sorry boys!
x Exercise: Some exercises and trainings can help a person become more flexible such as yoga, pilates, barre and stretching. These type of movements can also help with balance and muscle strength.
x Muscle Elasticity: It refers to muscles and tendons working together allowing the body to stretch and return to its original state during and after activity. This is what can be achieved through stretching exercises.
x Age: As we age, we naturally lose some of our muscle elasticity. However, there are things we can do to remain limber with the passage of time. In fact, flexibility is one of the main factors which allows a person to remain independent as they age.
x Anatomy: Every joint in the human body has a different structure. Ball-and-socket joints (such as hips and shoulders), allow us to move our limbs in different directions. Some people have different joint structures, such as a longer or shorter femoral neck or depth of a hip socket. This has an effect on range of motion.
More versus less flexible:
Put simply, our flexibility is determined by two things – our muscles (you guessed it), but also our bones. Ever been told in yoga class that if you practice every day, one day you’ll be able to touch your toes, perfect your downward dog, do the splits, perform some other super-flexi pose? Well, this isn’t always true. We are able to improve our flexibility and mobility a lot by stretching regularly, releasing tension with foam rollers, spikey balls etc.
However, we don’t have so much impact over the shape of our bones. Our bodies are unique in a whole host of ways, and our skeleton is no exception. Some of us have much deeper hip sockets than others, for example, whilst others have shallower ones, allowing more flexibility at that joint. Ever had that frustratingly flexible friend who came to class one time after zero preparation ever and effortlessly nailed that move you’ve been working on for months? (Yeah, we feel that pain).
This is not to say that stretching and release work is not important: it definitely is. We even have a whole Barre stretch class dedicated to mobilising and moving your body freely (if you have not been to a barre stretch class yet, do yourself a favour and book in. It’s soo delicious). But, it is important to remember, when stretching, that flexibility takes time and is not the same for every person. Remember: you are not somehow inferior because you don’t have the bendiest body in class.
Moving your body is something that should be done with joy, and as a celebration of what you are capable of, rather than a punishment for what you are not. The same philosophy can be applied to stretching. Be guided by what feels beautiful and loving to your body. Let go of any ideas of ‘perfection’ and to fully accept and love where your body is at in this moment.