I’ve been asked so many times how to increase flexibility quickly.
Yes, you can use gravity.
Yes, you can force your body to move in whichever way you’re trying to go.
But gravity can get you results slowly, and simply forcing yourself into a stretch can potentially cause more harm than good if not done correctly. Believe me, I know. I’ve messed up my hamstrings doing this.
There is a way to actively stretch that can get you results quickly while toning your body.
A specific program called Active Isolated Stretching (AIS for short), developed over 30 years ago by registered Kinesiotherapist and Licensed Massage Therapist Aaron Mattes, breaks it down to a science.
The four basic principles to AIS are:
1. Isolate the muscle to be stretched by contracting the opposing muscle during the stretch.
2. Repeat the stretch 8 to 10 times.
3. Each stretch is held for no more than 2 seconds. (Very important! Any more will begin to activate the body’s natural defense systems to over stretching)
4. Exhale while stretching and inhale when releasing.
So how exactly does this work, you ask?
When you are trying to reach your toes, for example, breathe out as you reach for the floor while contracting your quadriceps and abs. This tells your hamstrings to shut down and relax, and the extra oxygen in the area helps in developing the new range of motion and clearing waste.
Since you are creating a mind-body connection with every repetition, you not only benefit in creating new neural pathways (your brain is rewiring itself to adapt to this new mode of stretching!), but also by getting to learn about your body by tuning in to its needs. And you’ll gain the flexibility quickly without fearing the pain that sometimes accompanies those stretching sessions.
Who’s this for?
AIS isn’t just for yoga. It’s for all athletes, including body builders, that can benefit from the increased range of motion to get the full benefit from a workout with decreased recovery time. It’s for the every day person that just wants the extra flexibility to be able to play with their kids, to decrease pain and tension, or to simply improve his or her sex life. Everyone can benefit from more a more flexible body.
Practice AIS techniques after a workout, and/or whenever you need to feel a release of tension. Props are okay to use, but remember to keep your mind-body connection so you don’t cause injury.