The last one to open is the first one to close

I like to take notes of my body changes with training contortion, and lately I just came to a new interesting conclusion. Basically, the newest body part that improved in flexibility (by opening and stretching deeper to a new limit), it’s also the first one to get stiff, sore and refuses to reach the new limit all the times. I’ll try to be more clear:

My 29 yo body didn’t improve its flexibility all at once. It happened gradually and in “sections”.

The first section of my body that got more flexible was my hips, it didn’t take me long, also because of all body parts, my hips received some attentions in the past (through yoga and some stretching on my own). That’s why I don’t think I’ll ever lose my splits. They are solid, they’ve been around for a while now, I rarely feel stiff in that area. My hips are definitely my most flexible body part and the first one of all to feel open.


my first split in 2008

When I started contortion I began to work on my back flexibility for the first time. I remember of all my back, my lower would get incredibly sore, and because of my long body, that area would naturally take a lot of the bend. I would rarely get sore above my lower back. I wasn’t aware of the rest of my back (middle and upper), I couldn’t tell what I was bending, beside when receiving passive stretches from my coach. With time the soreness on my lower back decreased, my body “accepted” the new flexibility: it stopped fighting against it and I started bending more evenly throughout my whole spine. Definitely the second section of my body to become more flexible was my lower back.


Lower back work in 2012, the beginning of contortion

After that, it was my shoulders. I spent lot of time creating more space in shoulder flexion, with many shoulder stretches and variations. I had way more muscle than flexibility there, but I feel my shoulders opened pretty good (even with a small past injury on my right one) with no major resistance from my body. I got some soreness, but definitely stopping altogether heavy pole practice and lifting weights helped a lot. I still have work to do but I’d say shoulders was my third body section to open.


Opening them up !

Now I can definitely say the newest section that started to finally give up and open is my middle and upper back. After approximately a year of contortion, I started really FEELING my middle and upper back getting more engaged in each stretch. I actually try to minimize lower back work and focus primarily on middle and upper. I need to actively relax my legs, breathe and send all my concentration to that area, and slowly I feel a response. So out of my WHOLE body, this is the part I’m taking to a new level lately and let me tell you, my body doesn’t like it ALL the times. That’s why on a stiff day, my middle and upper back are the FIRST to refuse to cooperate, they get stiff and leave hips, lower back and shoulders all the work. This is what the title of this post is about, the last body part that opens, is the first one to close and go “on strike” every now and then, a newborn flexibility that can hypothetically even disappear if you stop trying. So do not take breaks, you should be working your hardest on your most challenging body part. You could have the opposite situation of me: a very bendy back and stiff hips. Let’s say you work a while on your splits and one day you finally get to the floor, yay! Then you try another day and… it’s not happening. WHY! Your body has not forgotten you did the splits, it’s just having a hard time making it happen all the times, but eventually it WILL. So don’t get discouraged, give your body the time (could be weeks, months, or more…each body is different) to be ok with the new way of being you’re creating for it. When you set a new limit you will get it gradually more often, as long as you practice and don’t stop 🙂



5 responses to “The last one to open is the first one to close

    • Good question. I luckily had a flexible neck, for some reason. So it didn’t take too much to stretch more. I know tho many people have a lot of tension in that area and have to go slow with the stretches.

      • Normal, in the sense of average, range of motion in neck includes about 45-70 of extension. 90 degrees or more cervical extension must be regarded as very flexible. Judging from pictures, you seem to be able to bend your neck about 100-110 degrees backwards by just tilting your head back. That’s pretty flexible indeed, but not exceptional: Some people can tilt their heads about 120-130 degrees backwards without applying any additional force besides the weight of the head; cf. one of the yoginis in the following video:

        When you are doing chest stands and the like, you seem to be able to push your neck about 140 degrees backwards (part of your upper back may also be involved in this motion). No doubt all those hours with a block under your chin has done a lot to loosen up your cervical spine. However, the absolute limit for how much a human neck (including maybe a bit of the upper back) can bend backwards is about 160 degrees; the chest and the face will then point in virtually opposite directions. See for instance some exceptionally thight bends by French professional contortionist Elza Davidson in this video:

        I have some questions:

        1. How much time do you spend per week on stretching your neck?
        2. Do you ever feel discomfort when you bend it past its “normal headtilt range”?
        3. Do you hope to gain another 20 degrees of neck extension, like the very most flexible professional contortionists?
        4. And finally, what do you think of the so-called Marinelli bend?

        Anyway, you’re doing great, and I wish you all the best :-)

  1. Hi Kim, thanks for your comment, your info are very interesting. I actually made a video today after your comment, to see my neck extension. Check it out
    Regarding the video of the girl contorting, I do most of her stretches too. You can see more of what I do on my page on Facebook (Sofia Venanzetti), if that interests you. Now about your questions:
    1- I stretch my neck during my back bending training about 3-4 times a week.
    2- I don’t feel discomfort in my neck beside when doing very deep stretches like triple fold/headsits, then I start to feel getting close to my limit.
    3- yes I’d love to gain as much flexibility as my body and age can take.
    4-I know that bend, but I don’t think I’m interested to learn it, I find it too extreme and being 5’11 I believe to be dangerous on my size.

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