Stretching your body on a regular basis is crucial for avoiding discomfort and injury, so credit to you if you manage to fit it into your schedule every day. However, if you’ve been working on your forward folds and they’re not becoming any easier—or if you’re not getting any more flexible—possible it’s that you’re stretching too hard.
Flexibility is important in general for getting around comfortably in your daily life. “Muscles that are more flexible have better suppleness and range of motion,” says Vanessa Chu, co-founder of Stretch*d. “This means they can help you with functional movements like reaching for objects and sitting pain-free, as well as boost your workouts so you can squat deeper or run further.” “As you get older, yoga also helps with overall balance and range of motion.”
Developing a consistent practise is one of the most important aspects of increasing flexibility, but if you’re already stretching on a regular basis and still aren’t seeing results, it’s likely because you’re overdoing it. “With flexibility, people frequently confuse pain with gain,” explains Chu. “Grimacing your face while trying to do the splits isn’t going to help you—you’ll end up overstretching, which will injure your muscles and joints.”
Rather than trying to squeeze several muscles into the deepest forms of a stretch all at once, isolate specific areas and use dynamic stretching to gradually increase your range of motion. These stretches entail moving your muscles rather than holding them still in a specific position, and according to Keren Day, DC, “by moving through the stretches, you fool your body into staying relaxed, which implies longer-lasting results and more range of motion.”
Chu adds that by using this strategy, you’ll be able to gradually increase flexibility over several repetitions, so that by the end of your 10 to 12 reps, your muscles will be significantly more flexible than when you started. That flexibility will carry over from one stretch session to the next over time.
You should do these types of stretches every day for at least 10 minutes if you want to improve your flexibility, since, as Chu puts it, “Stretching even 10 minutes every day is better than stretching for an hour every week.” Concentrate on one or two muscle groups at a time, prioritising the tightest places that may require more attention. You’ll be well on your way to attaining that full split without any grimacing if you do it this way.
Need a little strech-spiration? Follow along with the video below:
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