It was September 1986…
I remember it very well. I was 7 years old, just started my first class in a big school and we were all asked to come to the school gym for some kind of “testing”. That was the day when I was chosen, together with a few of my class mates, for our local acrobatic gymnastics section in my hometown. I was small and fragile, light as a feather and probably had some natural flexibility skills I had no idea about. I can only guess that that’s what made the coaches choose me.
Training had been very intense. However my parents have always supported me. Especially my dad who had been there at my side for all those 4 years. I had my trainings twice a week and soon afterwards I found myself winning medals during our local acrobatic gymnastics competitions in the category of women’s group (women’s trio), where I was the smallest one of all three, doing all the figures on the top.
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The photo below shows a little part of our section during one of our 1-week sports camps. As you may guess, I’m the smallest one here.
I think I didn’t even realise what was happening back then. I absolutely loved that amazing feeling of flexibility and I was positively shocked by what my body was capable of. Most of all I think it was the fact that my parents were so proud of me and all the people around me admired my skills and looked at my fitness capabilities with astonishment. Especially my class mates when during our PA classes my teacher often practiced some handstands and somersaults with me. You can only imagine what it was like for an 8-year old!
And then suddenly it all stopped.
Puff! Gone. They’ve shut down our section and my parents started looking for some other alternatives for me. That was the first time when I found myself thinking about yoga or dance classes but there was nothing like that in my small hometown. So I ended up on a totally different path: I started learning how to play the violin. Music had pushed sports aside and I stopped exercising, which is one thing I can’t really forgive myself nowadays. However I do try to explain to myself that I was still a kid and didn’t realise what this change of direction might have meant in the future.
That’s a short history of how the seed of fitness love has been planted in my life.
This is also the first time when I tasted what it’s really like to be flexible. I felt so confident back then. My posture was straight, I had perfect balance and I was really strong (even though I looked so small and fragile)!
30 years later…
So here I am today, 30 years later. With a crazy idea in my mind that I’d love to get back at least some of that flexibility I used to have when I was a kid. I’ve been exercising for over 4 years now but I didn’t pay much attention to stretching, so believe me, my flexibility is gone! It really IS gone! (there’s photos further down to prove it) As an example let me tell you that I couldn’t even reach my ankles doing forward fold! Not to mention my inner-thigh flexibility which is a real disaster right now. However… I want it back and I’m determined to get it back, as much as I can.
Why do I want to improve my flexibility?
Because… I want to:
- feel that pleasure of being flexible
- increase my strength and mobility now and for my future years
- strengthen my muscles and ligaments
- decrease risk of injuries while doing exercises (I love weight lifting, so you know…)
- decrease risk of back pain and any other pains that are so common with age
- I also want to find out if I can do it at my age
Is it possible for a 38-year old to regain flexibility?
I can’t even remember how many times I’d asked myself that question. How many videos I’d watched and how many articles I’d read to find some answers. Wherever I looked, whoever I asked, I heard that it IS possible and since I used to have that skill, I should get back to it in no time. Most of those people have always recommended yoga as the best practice for gaining flexibility. So this year I’ve finally decided to give it a go.
I’ve been practising yoga almost every day since March, at home, choosing different youtube videos. I especially like power yoga which is a bit more like a fitness-type of yoga, focusing a lot on strength and flexibility.
Here’s a few of my favourite youtube channels so far:
And a few books in this topic which might be of great help too:
- Restoring Flexibility : A Gentle Yoga-Based Practice to Increase Mobility at Any Age (Andrea Gilats)
- The Ultimate Body Stretching Guide (Dave LeLino) – kindle
- Power Yoga: The Total Strength and Flexibility Workout (Beryl Bender Birch)
I see how extremely slow this process is, but I do see some progress and that motivates me to keep trying! I know that I need to be consistent and arm myself in a lot of patience. So far I’ve been enjoying this journey very much.
Let me show you where I am with my flexibility right now. Here is a few photos I took within my first month of practising yoga:
This photo is already showing a LOT of progress compared to what it was like a few months ago. Back then I wasn’t even able to reach my ankles. Now I can reach even a little bit further and I keep pushing.
I have to say that I’m honestly impressed how my back stayed flexible within all those years. I know that thanks to gymnastics I managed to strengthen my spine immensely and this might be why I don’t really suffer from back pain nowadays (except from the time when I was pregnant of course… guess that can’t be avoided anyways… ). So yeah, my back bends quite a lot, though I know how a proper backbend should look like and I know exactly where I’m failing right now. I’m eager to improve though.
My splits have also slightly improved but I know it’s going to take months before I get close to the floor. Let’s keep working on it!
Wide-Legged Forward Fold.
Ahhh… It’s my dream to be able to lie flat on my chest as I used to. This can be such a relaxing pose… Right now it’s a real struggle to even stay in this pose you can see in the photo below…
So I keep pushing and the further I go the more I love it! I do my best to do yoga every day. Sometimes I do a full hour session, sometimes only 15-30 minutes. If I decide to go for a run or I do my workout with weights, I always finish it with at least 15 minutes of proper stretching exercises. What’s even better, and what works as an excellent additional motivation for me, is my 9-year old daughter. I once showed her one of the yoga for kids youtube channels called Cosmic Kids. She loved it so much that now she’s asking for it every day! I must say I love it myself. It’s brilliant!
Let’s start right here, right now
The main aim of this post is to document my starting point and to inspire you to start working on your flexibility too. If you’re still hesitant whether it’s worth a try, you can join me on this journey and together we can support and motivate each other and see how far we manage to go. If you’re willing to try, I have started using my own hashtag on Instagram ( #fitnclassyyogazone ). Feel free to use it. It’s the place where we can document our progress and our daily struggles. I believe we can do it! I think stretching can do amazing things to our body, on condition that we don’t force it, it’s only beneficial.
Do you work on improving your flexibility?