Time for an embarrassing truth about myself: I’m not flexible. At all. I know that may not sound too ridiculous, but trust me, in practice it’s quite embarrassing. Not everyone can touch their toes, but I can barely touch my knees!
I never enjoyed being the least flexible kid in gym class, but it also never occured to me that it was something I could do something about. But my girlfriend, a huge fan of yoga, has told me that flexibility is something you can get better at if you practice. I took her at her word and decided that I’d make it a new year’s resolution of mine to get a bit more flexible. But I don’t want to do yoga (which is what my girlfriend advised), so I’m asking the experts: what other activities can help me get more flexible, assuming that’s possible?
Let’s start with this: it is indeed possible to train your body to be more flexible.
And there are some very good reasons to do just that. For one thing, being more flexible makes you less prone to injuries. It’s also good for athletics and physical activities, say teacher at Waikiki-based surfing lessons provider Ohana Surf Project–a position that’s backed up by the latest science. Whether you’re trying something for the first time–like many of Ohana’s clients–or are a professional athlete–like the pro football players who dabble in yoga on the side–it pays to be flexible, because you’ll be more able to execute the moves your activity demands of you while being less likely to injure yourself while doing them.
So how can you get more flexible? Well, yoga is certainly one option, but it’s far from the only activity that encourages you to stretch out a bit. You could take up dancing, too, say instructors at Lawrenceville, New Jersey’s Arthur Murray Dance Studio. You could also consider tai chi, hiking, swimming, and even golf, all of which involve movements that push your body to be more flexible.
You could even just make a habit of stretching, though many experts feel that you should not stretch “cold” muscles–you’ll want to do at least some light activity first to warm yourself up. But the bottom line here is that any regular stretching exercise should make you more flexible over time. Strangely enough, scientists aren’t really sure why this is–it could be anything from a physical change to an increased tolerance in your nervous system for the feeling of stretching. But it does work, and it does bring about health benefits, so by all means, stick to your new year’s resolution. Who knows–you may even end up trying, and liking, yoga after all.
“That’s one of my focuses, is to increase my flexibility and strength and have greater range of motion.” — Jake Arrieta