🙆🏻♀️Tone & Flexibility the Perfect Partnership
Gaining flexibility is a wonderful and freeing feeling. A great stretch in a yoga, pilates or fitness class has the ability to give one that rung out, relaxed feeling many people seek to oppose the tightness and stiffness of the day that sets into our of muscles and joints.
Long term elasticity, responsiveness and flexibility of your muscles relies on a neuromuscular connect between the muscle you are stretching and the one on the opposite side. Basically, gaining and maintaining a supple body has just as much to do with toning the opposing muscle on the other side!
Here is how it works: Say you are doing scissors in class, the back of your legs might feel stiff and hard to straighten. Though this is an intentional hamstring stretch it is also a quadriceps (front of the leg) strengthener. The muscles on the front of your leg are what straighten the back of the leg. It's a simple agonist/antagonist relationship. Tone one side while stretching the other side.
Pilates significantly improves hamstring flexibility: "This study demonstrated that in active middle-aged men and women, exposure to Pilates exercise for 12 weeks, for two 60-minute sessions per week, was enough to promote statistically significant increases in abdominal endurance, hamstring flexibility, and upper-body muscular endurance" https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20145572
Here is a list of the most common flexibility exercises in VASIE Pilates:
- Posture Prep & prone lateral legs (front of legs and hip flexors)
- Scissors, single leg and one leg circle (backs of legs)
- Roll Up (muscles along the spine)
- 1/2 roll back (low back)
- Swan dive (front of body)
- Chest opener (chest)
- ...just to name a few
This is a twofer! Stretch out those tight BACK muscles AND work your ABS.
- Inhale, squeeze your legs together.
- Kegel, exhale, round forward. Keep core active.
- Roll down only as far as you can maintain the even curve in your spine
- Keep your hips on your heels
- more tips...
- Start with the natural curves in your spine
- Keep your heels on your butt (sit with legs in front of you if you can't sit on your heels)
- Keep shoulders down your back
- 90 angle at your shoulder and elbows
🧠It's In the Brain
When you use your quads (thigh muscle on the front) to bring your leg closer to your chest you are stretching your hamstrings (back of the leg). This reminds your brain that there is a relationship between the two muscle groups and therefore allows the back of the leg to release easier. Ultimately, this changes the setting in your nervous system for better, more functional, relaxed, easier on your joints movement.
Stretching and strengthening are key to healing and preventing back pain By Harvard Health Publications. [read]
The secret to true and lasting flexibility, freedom of movement lays in TONING opposing muscles you are trying to stretch. Meet PNF or active stretching.
If you do VASIE Pilates you experience this type of stretching on a regular basis. Studies show this type of stretching is more effective. [read NIH study]
The basic premise is that you are using one set of muscles (let's say your abs) to stretch out the muscles on the opposite side of the joint (in this case - back muscles).