Yoga is a great tool for increasing flexibility, everybody knows this.
But most people don’t believe that they’ll ever be able to get their legs close to a full split, or pull them behind their head with ease.
They feel so far away from these goals that they stop trying, even though they are actually making progress — they just can’t see it because it happens a few inches at a time.
So we decided to help our students see their flexibility improvement by measuring certain key stretches week by week — and the results we’ve been getting are amazing! One student has improved his split by 6 inches in just a few weeks, and another saw a 4-inch improvement in his seated forward bend!
Here’s how it works: A dedicated group of students meet one morning a week for a basic yoga class.
We identified six basic stretches that these students want to work on improving, including seated forward bends, wide legged splits, splits with one leg forward and legs behind the head.
Since everybody in this morning yoga class also participates in the school’s BJJ and MMA classes, a lot of the movements are tailored to improve the students’ martial arts games. They are also basic body flexibility movements that will help ensure that their bodies are physically healthy and balanced — especially their back and leg muscles, which cause many people problems and can really be improved with yoga.
We work together for about 45 minutes, moving through a basic yoga routine incorporating movements that will help everyone in the class work on those key areas of flexibility, as well as their balance, strength and coordination. Then, the students work with each other to take their six basic measurements.
They use tape measures, measuring in the same way each week to ensure that the results reflect real, physical changes.
Since we started doing this about a month ago, the students have been amazed at the changes they’ve seen. They knew they were improving their flexibility because they felt the stretches becoming a little easier… but they had no idea that they were improving by as much as they really are.
For example, dedicated yoga student Jeff Lucas improved his seated wide legged split by 6 inches in one month, and improved his leg behind the head stretch by 5 inches, getting one of his legs all the way there.
Another dedicated student, Gary Waskovich has also seen serious improvement. Gary came in with good splits, but he’s gotten them even farther. He’s seen huge changes in an area that he felt very tight in before, his hips, getting his legs 6.5 and 3.5 inches closer to behind his head.
Last week, the students did some stretching using stability balls, and they felt that the stretches were particularly effective in helping them get even deeper into these challenging stretches.
We’ll share those stability ball split development stretches with you in a future post, because they’re great stretches for you to practice at home. All you need is a ball and a little bit of space.