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How to Become Flexible

Mukta Gaikwad Oct 25, 2018
To improve your flexibility, stretching exercises help. Practicing simple stretches for few minutes everyday will help to improve your flexibility. But, to make yourself really flexible many special workout classes like yoga, Tai Chi, martial arts, etc. can help.

Did You Know?

Stretching releases endorphins in the body. Since endorphins are natural pain killers and mood enhancers, after a stretching session you tend to feel good, physically as well as mentally.
There are many benefits of stretching, other than it making you feel good. It improves your range of motion, decreases the risk of injuries, increases blood circulation and reduces the tightness in the muscles.
Stretching is as important a post-workout activity as it is a pre-workout one. Although everyone extols the benefits of stretching for overall physical and mental health, it is always advisable to seek your physician's advice before you start a workout, especially if you have specific medical conditions.

Goal Setting

It all starts with a goal. - Michael Phelps

It is important to first define your goal when starting a workout. Next, plan your workout properly. Create a plan in such a way, that you start with the basics and then improve your flexibility and physical fitness gradually, by adding advanced exercises to your regime. 
For example, if your aim is to improve your flexibility so that you can do a split, then perform strength training exercises like side sit-ups and leg stretches. However, if your aim is to get rid of back pain, then do around 3 types of back stretches, 5-6 times a week.

Stretching Workouts to Become Flexible

Warm-up is of extreme importance, and should not be skipped before a workout.

Warm-up helps to prevent injuries and cramps, and makes your workout much more enjoyable and easier. Just a 10 minute session of mild jogging, cycling or speed walking is good enough. Make sure you do mild jogging and not running.
Many people tend to do jumping jacks, side sit-ups, Hindu squats, or lunges after their initial warm-up session. However, this is optional. Now that the importance of a warm-up has been stressed upon, let's look at some stretching exercises. We will cover all the major body areas, starting with lower body stretches and moving on to upper body stretches.

Ankle Stretch

  • Sit on a mat with your right leg stretched in front of you.
  • Then wrap the resistance band or towel around your right foot.
  • Pull the band/towel slowly towards your body and hold for a few seconds. Release.
  • Repeat for the other leg.

Calf Stretch

  • Stand in front of a wall at arm's length and keep your hands on the wall for support.
  • Now, place your right foot behind your left foot.
  • Bend the left knee and lean forward.
  • You will feel a pull in your right calf.
  • Hold for few seconds and release.
  • Repeat with the other leg.

Quadriceps Stretch

  • Stand in front of a wall, and keep your left hand on the wall for support.
  • Now, bend your right leg backwards as much as you can.
  • Hold the right foot with your right hand and stretch.
  • Hold for a few seconds and release.
  • Switch sides and repeat the same procedure.

Butterfly Stretch for Inner Thighs & Groin

  • Sit straight on a mat.
  • Then bend your knees sideways.
  • Touch the undersides of your feet together.
  • Bring your feet closer to body and keep your knees as close to the ground as possible.
  • Hold and release.

Cat & Camel Stretch for Back

  • Support yourself on all fours, your hands being flat on the mat and knees and feet touching the mat.
  • Now, slowly arch your back till you feel a strain. Hold for few seconds, while looking ahead. Release.
  • Now, slowly curve your back and keep looking down. Hold and release.
  • Repeat 4 - 5 times.

Cobra Stretch for Back

  • Lie face down on a mat.
  • Then slowly lift your upper body while keeping your palms flat on the mat.
  • Keep arching your back while keeping your arms straight.
  • Hold and release.

Chest Stretch

  • To stretch your chest, simply stand straight and interlock your hands behind your back.
  • Now, stand straight and move the hands upwards, till your feel the stretch in your chest region.
  • Hold and release.

Shoulder & Arm Stretch

  • Stand straight and bring your right arm across your body.
  • Hold the right arm slightly behind the elbow with your left hand.
  • Release and repeat by switching arms.

Fingers and Wrist Stretch

  • For this stretch, stand straight with shoulder-width distance between your legs.
  • Now, raise your right arm so that it is parallel to the floor, and palms facing upward.
  • Place your left palm on the right hand's fingers and slowly pull back.
  • Hold for few seconds and release.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Neck Stretch

  • To stretch your neck, tilt your neck forward till you feel your nape muscles feel stretched and hold for few seconds.
  • Then tilt your neck backward and again hold for few seconds.
  • Now, tilt your neck to the right side and hold for couple of seconds.
  • Release, and repeat by tilting the neck to the left.

Dos & Don'ts

  • Never skip a warm-up before your workout.
  • You should feel a slight strain, NOT PAIN, while stretching.
  • If you feel pain while stretching, then take a break of few minutes, check your technique and try again. If you still feel pain while performing any particular stretch, discontinue it.
  • As a beginner, stick to mild stretches, or get a fitness instructor to help you out with the stretches.
  • Keep breathing slowly during the stretch.
  • When stretching, hold the stretch for 20 seconds or little longer. However, don't overdo it. Instead perform 2-3 reps of the stretch.
  • It is important to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day, and while working out. Water helps to keep the joints and tissues lubricated. It also helps to prevent cramps.
  • Follow a healthy, well-balanced diet for overall good health.

Going One Step Further

If you think you are already in good shape, or have been performing basic stretching exercises for a while, then consider some special classes. There are many classes that can make you more agile and fit.
Yoga is not just great for physical health, but also for mental health. Enroll yourself for yoga classes, and you will see a marked improvement in your flexibility after a month.
Tai Chi, often referred to as meditation in motion, is a great option for increasing flexibility and balance. It also helps to reduce stress and improve physical fitness. You can also enroll for a martial arts class. Martial arts will not just help to improve your flexibility, but also improve your strength and confidence.
Disclaimer: Always consult a physician before starting any physical fitness program in order to reduce the risk of injury.