The 100 day contortion challenge has been the most incredible body enlightenment experience and will continue well beyond the intended 100 days. I proved to myself that I could achieve my greatest flexibility by focusing, “visualizing” if you will, on my end goal. I had to become comfortable with the movements before I saw any real progress, it took a lot of dedication and motivation to continue but the reward was greater flexibility, balance, control, and overall a greater state of physical and mental well-being.
After a stretching session I feel so loose, light, focused, clear-headed and a day later a little sore but with the purified foods I eat, my body is supplied with the tools I need to rebuild myself even stronger and with a greater range of motion. I crave this feeling, I look forward to clearing my mind, focusing on my breath and each individual muscle movement, it is a beautiful habit with many rewards that I hope all of you get the chance to experience.
For years I tried to gain more flexibility, it was a slow process with little to no satisfaction, mainly because I couldn’t actually see any results. This time I made it a point to film myself and review my progress. I found myself watching, thinking at first “wow that is much better than I thought” and then later “come on, lift it a little higher, hold it, hold it!” Then I would think ” I wonder if I can do better?!” It’s the challenge that gets me excited, actually seeing the progress is a huge part of why I continued. The other main reason I kept motivated was inspiration from some of my favorite pole dancers, contortionists, students, and the whole dance community. Submerging myself into the works of others helped me figure out what moves I wanted to be able to do, how I wanted it to look and also the steps to get into these moves. It’s all apart of the visualization that helps you manifest what you desire most, focus on where you want to be and you’ll get there!
Contortion Flexibility Tips & Tricks
Stretching for 100 days straight made me stop and think about what was working and what wasn’t working. I needed to feel my best to perform my best and so I compiled a list of tips and tricks that have helped me achieve my greatest flexibility in hopes to help you gain your greatest flexibility!
1. Warm up properly.
Warm up by actively aka dynamically stretching, I love using the lower body kinetic bands to amp up my warmup. I do high knees with a sequence of moving each and every joint in every direction possible; circles, side to side, back and fourth. Get your heart rate up and circulation flowing so it can bring an abundance of oxygen to your muscles. I like to think of our muscles as a stick of gum, before it is hydrated and warmed it will break in half. If you don’t keep hydrated and warm, you too could break in half 😉
2. Breath Deeply.
Focused deep breathing helps us release tension in our muscles so we can stretch farther than we ever thought possible. Our muscles need oxygen to function and they also need special focused attention. You will notice certain muscles will start to tighten if you do not breath, this can cause tears or strains and we don’t want that. I tell my students to think of the oxygen flowing to that one particular area, breath into your hamstrings, breath into your hip flexor whatever you need to do visualize that muscle filling with air and loosening. Focusing on our breath helps us to clear our “monkey mind” this also helps us to achieve greater control of our muscles to know when to actively engage and disengage specific muscles.
3.Tighten on the Inhale, Release on the Exhale.
While in a static stretching pose tighten or squeeze all of your muscles on the inhale, and exhale releasing all tension in the muscles. Eventually you should be able to activate each and every muscle, separately and together. This takes a lot of focus but the tightening and relaxing of the muscles actually trains your muscle memory so it can remember how to hold this new flexible position without tightening up.
4. Eat Lightly Before Stretching
The best thing to eat before stretching is fruit and plenty of water, tea or freshly pressed juice. Eating a large cooked meal before stretching or working out can cause a host of issues. It is important to remember that when you workout or stretch all of our bodies attention will go to supplying the muscles with oxygen, which is also why you need to breath deeply. This means digestion will take a hiatus. When this happens people often get indigestion, heart burn. I’ll stick to the fruit, water and tea thank you!
5. Stay Hydrated!
You have got to keep yourself hydrated. Drinking too much water can cause you to feel to full and won’t keep you hydrated for long. I have found that by eating fruit or vegetables with high water content, my thirst is quenched for much longer. The electrolytes in the fruit replenish our bodies, help us cramp less, heal faster and increase stamina. So wether you eat the whole fruit, juice it, or put it in some water, it will no doubt be very beneficial to your stretching routine. We all know how important water is but I do want to reiterate purified water is so important well before and after stretching.
6. Take Your Time.
Sometimes it can take up to 1 hour to warm up properly especially in colder weather. Each move takes a while to get into, with every single small movement I try to breath in completely and exhale completely. This helps me pace myself, rather than just flying into a split which can cause injury. A whole deep stretching session will take me 2 hours to complete everything, while taking my time to avoid injury and focus on each muscle individually. It’s an investment into your mind and body that will reward you in the end if done properly.
7. Lightly Stretch Everyday
You don’t have to have a deep stretch session every time you stretch, it would be impractical. It is best to give your body rest but also make sure your are maintaining the flexibility you have every day. This can be as simple as wrist, arm, hip, leg, and foot circles or dancing with big movements utilizing every muscle. I like to light stretch throughout the day, this make me feel my absolute best, If I skip I start to feel tight and lethargic.
8. Deep Stretch Every Week.
A deep 2 hour stretch session was necessary for my improvement. I would go through each move incredibly slow, focusing on every little movement. I learned a lot about my body by paying close attention to every detail. Minor adjustments to the hips, neck, arms, etc, can cause for major readjustments in basic or advanced stretching moves. For instance in a split it is best to push your front knee away from you to release tension on you hip flexor and hip joints, this allows your sink further into your back hip flexor. There are many adjustments that will make a world of a difference, you just have to experiment with movement in all directions to find the hidden spots.
9. Eat Plenty of Fresh Organic Foods.
Food from nature supplies our body with real sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc to help our bodies build and repair themselves efficiently. The more efficiently our body repairs itself the less rest we need and the more stretching we can do. I found that if I ate heavy cooked foods that the next day my performance was not as good and not a lot of progress was made because I was uncomfortable. When I eat an abundance of fresh raw foods from the farmer’s market I feel like I can climb mountains, stretch for 2 hours easily and do it all again. Food straight from the ground gives me energy and life-force!
10. Strength is Just as Important as Flexibility.
Every time while stretching we should be flexing or tightening our muscles, trying to keep them in this new position. For instance you could stand straight, engage your core and lift your leg gradually, breathing and then try to lift it as high as you can, hold it there while breathing and focusing on what needs to happen for your leg to be relaxed but strong while in this uncomfortable position. The only way to relax is to strengthen our muscles to be able to hold our leg up with no problem. It’s one thing to do splits against the ground when your weight is pushing you down but standing up and having the ability to lift your leg straight up takes a lot of individual muscle control and strength. This also goes with touching your feet to your head, you have to have a really strong back and butt to bring your feet to your head.
11. If you are Tired, Rest!
Avoid injury by not pushing yourself over your limits. If you are extremely sore I still recommend intermittent light stretching to keep loose but keep it really simple and low key. Your body will tell you what it needs, just listen <3
Contortion, Pole, & Yoga Inspiration
Flexibility is difficult to obtain because it takes persistence and sometimes outside force to help. There is a lot you can do with your furniture, walls and yourself but sometimes it’s easier to do things with equipment. Here is a list of the “contraptions” I used to improve my flexibility.[AMAZONPRODUCTS asin=”B008SDJNPY, B0000CA2P5, B0062YQN4U” features=”1″ ]
Upper and Lower Body Combo Set
-Upper Body Kinetic Bands (Includes: two handles, four long resistance bands of varying resistance, one door mount, two adjustable straps, and handy travel bag.)
-Lower Body Kinetic Bands (2 leg straps, 2 sets of resistance bands, travel bag)
-Flexibility and Stunt Strap (your choice of 4 colors), a great stretching tool for everyone!
-“Full Body Toner” workout DVD featuring: Full body workout in under 30 minutes.
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