Question by zesty_tang: What pilates move or exercises would make your body (legs) more flexible?
What pilates move or exercises would make your body (legs)more flexible? I need better flexibility in my legs (especially the ham strings), as I feel i cannot keep my legs straight when they are up in the air when I am lying on my back…
Silicon Valley girl: it looks like a great reference website, thanks!
Answer by SiliconValleyGirl
Are you stretching before or after exercise? This is of great importance as you should never stretch a cold muscle. You risk injury by asking a muscle to lengthen and elongate when it’s not prepared to.
I am a Yoga instructor so I can give you some similar tips on how to work on the flexibility of your hamstrings as this is definitely an issue for many. First, of course, do your stretches either after exercise or warm up beforehand. The warmer you are the better you will be able to tolerate the stretch. Here are a couple of options you can try:
1. You can do the same movement (of lying on your back with your legs in the air) standing up. You can do a forward fold, relaxing your head and neck, letting your arms dangle down towards the floor and concentrating on your breathing. Inhale first and then exhale as you’re folding forward, going as far as you can go. Then hold it there. Take another inhale and as you exhale try and relax the legs even more, going deeper into the stretch as you can. Do this for about 4-5 minutes if you have time…each time relaxing as you exhale. Relaxing your legs keeps the tension out and lets your muscles stretch. When you are nervous and tense your hamstrings will not want to budge. Deep breathing helps calm you down and ease yourself into it.
2. Use yoga/pilates straps (or even a towel if you want). Sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you, wrap the towel around your feet and hold each end of the towel with your hands. Inhale first, then as you exhale hold on to the towel and ‘pull’ your upper body towards your thighs. Go slowly, inching yourself down a little at a time, using your breath to relax your muscles so you can do down a little more each time. When you get as far as you can go, hold it and continue breathing for a minute or two and slowly release out of the stretch. NEVER force yourself to go farther than your body will let you.
Here is an example of #2: http://yogajournal.com/poses/476_1.cfm
Another pose that is a wonderful for stretching the hamstrings (and the back!) is Downward Dog. It’s more detailed in the instructions so I’ll let you read more about it if you’re interested: http://yogajournal.com/poses/491_1.cfm
Note that gaining flexibility takes time and patience. As long as you respect your body and its limitations (along with its abilities) you give it space to change and grow.
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