How flexible can we actually become?

After a year’s effort getting my legs up in the air with headstand, my new goal is to do ‘Full leg Splits’. Today morning after finishing my yoga routine, I tried to assess my current ‘split’ abilities. I went down on two knees, extended one leg in front as far as I could, took the other leg back, supporting with my two hands on the mat, tried to extend further as far as I could. To my utter disappointment, I realized what looks so easy is actually so difficult. I might be good with one pose, but every new pose is a new journey and this is going to be a long one as I had almost 1ft I had to get down to.

Which got me thinking, what causes stretching? What happens when we stretch? Do the muscles get longer? Can everyone be as flexible as they want? How to be flexible?

  • Our muscles are viscoelastic. Like solid materials, they demonstrate elasticity by resuming their original length once tensile force is removed. Yet, like liquids, they also behave viscously because their response to tensile force is rate and time dependent. When we stretch our muscles don’t get longer but their viscoelasticity increases
  • We can actually stretch more than we think we can tolerate. As a kid we are born to be very flexible, but as we grow older, with our lifestyles we restrict our range of motions and our muscles get used to that level of stretch tolerance. So much so that “Pain” is just the body’s way of telling us we are going beyond our normal limits. We can stretch to a little more after the pain. Hence with breathing in and out and adapting our minds, you can ease yourself into a pose, sometimes significantly within minutes.
  • To improve flexibility, hold stretches for longer time: For a post run “stretch”, you can do a quick dynamic stretch, but to improve flexibility we need to re-train our mind and build a new normal. To do that we have to hold stretches (Just uncomfortable, not painful) for longer time , i.e. 30 sec or more, practice twice a day, regularly, be as flexible as possible

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