I hear it often from new students – I’m not very flexible. Sometimes these students do have a limited range of motion, and sometimes they are better than they realize! Flexibility is our ability to move and that range of motion within which we can move. Part of our flexibility is determined by our genetics and anatomy. How long are our ligaments, tendons and connective tissues? Some of us are just built ‘looser’. Take a look at your parents – are they flexible? Were they ever flexible? What about your siblings? This could be a good indicator as to whether your genes provide for a more flexible body.
There is more to flexibility, however, than our anatomy and structure. Some of our flexibility comes from our strength and stability. A stronger body with active stabilizing muscles can hold a position or extend further than a weaker body. A weak low back can result in ‘tight’ hamstrings. While the hamstrings themselves are not short or abnormally tight – if the back can not support the load – the hamstrings jump in and seize up to do the work.
Often times I hear students say, “I just need to stretch more.” Maybe not! Stretching alone will not fix a lack of strength or support in the body. Think of a rubber band – you can pull it out and pull it out time and time again. Each time it will go back to it’s original shape. In our bodies if we don’t fix the issue – instability or weakness – we will keep landing back in the same place. With the rubber band, if you stretch it out and use a tack (support muscles) to hold it – it will stay elongated. In order to increase our flexibility, we need to create that support in our bodies. Pilates helps us do that be awakening, activating and recruiting all kinds of support muscles! That is the beauty of Pilates! We gain flexibility without really realizing it just by creating a stronger core and body.
You may have noticed we do a few moments of stretching at the end of our Pilates classes. Some of this is to release tension in the body. Simply put it just feels good to get our fascia moving! Some of it is the remind the body of that work we have done – in a dynamic way. All of our stretches involve a movement where we are taking the body in and out of a position. That’s a sneaky way of keeping those stabilizers working in the name of stretching 🙂 Once again – Pilates is a clever workout!!
If you have a flexibility goal you would like to address, please let me know in your next class. Together we can work on creating your strong network of support muscles and increasing your range of motion!