Natural flexibility and teaching

Im always in awe of those very bendy people. No matter what time of day or night, circumstances, warm up or not, they can bend. It’s funny because when people tell me that I’m so flexible, I always think- yes I’m flexible, but on command: I have to prepare my body and transform into the bendy me, like a super-hero. Because if I’m walking down the streets and someone asks me to do a flexible trick, I would be able to use probably only 30-40%of my flexibility, and it would come mostly from my hips lol. Instead, who’s born naturally flexible (that mean their LIGAMENTS are more stretchy than average, it has little to do with the muscle lengthening ability) can bend all the times with little warm up, sometimes none (of course they can also lose it in the long run if they don’t keep stretching). I love to look at how they can transition faster from pose to pose, with less struggle than someone like me, who has an acquired, trained flexibility. I’m sure they still train hard and spend lot of time to work on stabilizing their joints, because you know, the more flexible you are the more control is needed or you’re flop and fall here and there.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia --- Mongolia, Ulaan Bator, School of contortion --- Image by © Bruno Morandi/Corbis

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia — Mongolia, Ulaan Bator, School of contortion — Image by © Bruno Morandi/Corbis

The thing that I wonder though is, when these “flexible beasts” start teaching (currently a flexibility certification doesn’t exist) do they know how us, average flexible people, need to train to become, safely and progressively, more flexible? Number 1 rule: Average people need A LOT of warm up exercises!

Warm up or burst! Something I could never do without proper warm up :) My coach stretching me couple years ago

Warm up or burst! Something I could never do without proper warm up. My coach stretching me couple years ago

I was watching a video of a girl in her late twenties (who claimed to be a teacher) describing a warm up. She was standing like a foot facing away from wall, then she bent backward, pushed her arms straight on the wall and in about 10-15 seconds her head was touching her butt. Wow! I wouldn’t call it a warm up, especially not shown to that depth (head to butt), which only an extremely small % of the population could do anyway. A warm up for a normal, averagely flexible person would be maybe starting with a shoulder stretch in kneeling position, arms forward on top on a chair, sinking chest down. Too easy? Doesn’t matter! Your shoulders are gonna thank you for not having them traumatized right away with harder stretches, that’s why you warm up.

When you bend so naturally, do you know what it’s like to start as a beginner? Do you know stiff muscles that never stretched before, disorientation (looking back in bridge!) and fear as in holding breath, contracting and panicking…? Unless you went to a circus school or you have been teaching a variety of students for years (in two word, you have method and experience) I would have a hard time to trust you, but I’d admire your beautiful bends from far 😀

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia --- Mongolia, Ulaan Bator, School of contortion --- Image by © Bruno Morandi/Corbis

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia — Mongolia, Ulaan Bator, School of contortion — Image by © Bruno Morandi/Corbis

I’m not saying natural “noodle people” shouldn’t teach. I just know teaching – unless you teach straight to kids – means all sort of people will come and want to take your class, and majority of them are not gonna be bendy freaks, they will need a slow pace, lot of warm up, lot of individual attention to feel safe, and be reassured, because of fear, pain, and lack of belief in what they’re capable of, plus motivation. So end story, if you’re naturally flexible and start teaching others be careful, insist on warm ups, work the student’s way up from easy to hard exercises, don’t expect too much right away – but not even too little (we are capable of change!).

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