Flexibility is necessary to allow muscles function properly, and the body can perform any movement efficiently. If you feel tight often and need to stretch this may be an indication that your body has muscle and joint imbalances. Stretching might provide temporary relief, and it will not address the problem.
When I started my fitness life, I was extremely tight. It is hard to believe now that I could only bend forward in standing position to 30 degrees before feeling discomfort. Also, I could not sit on the floor with the legs extended and had to use my arms to support the upper body. I took many yoga classes, and they brought no improvement.
Many lower body muscles originate in the pelvis and hip joint areas. When my pelvis and hip joint gained a greater range of motion, the overall flexibility was improved. Also, improper activation and functioning of the gluteal muscles is a major factor for poor flexibility of the lower and upper body.
It is ingrained in our minds that flexibility is associated with stretching. You might be totally surprised to know that there’s no research supporting benefits of static stretching. On the contrary, many studies found that holding static stretches for 1 or 2 minutes lengthens and weakens the muscle. In addition, long static stretches can also loosen ligaments and their ability to hold joints.
I associate flexibility with the body being functional and healthy when muscle groups work together efficiently and they don’t affect each other in a negative way.
Some movements in yoga and Pilates such as bending, reaching, twisting, or balancing can make your more functional. However, one of the major problems that affect all of us is the ability to move dynamically as we age. Yoga and Pilates do not address this problem. In some clubs the yoga studio is located on the second floor, and you can see people taking an elevator to get to the studio.
Yoga and Pilates can be beneficial if you practice certain relaxation poses and deep breathing. On the other hand, if you are trying to perform poses to mimic what the yoga instructor does and your body is not ready for it you can do more harm than good.
Among other types of non-static stretching the dynamic and active-isolated stretching is more effective and functional. It can take multiple joints and muscles through a full range of motion. Leg lifts, movements with a medicine ball, and body weight exercises are good examples of dynamic stretching.
Dynamic exercises in different body positions such as standing, supine and side-lying leg lifts are effective for this type of stretching. In particular, dynamic body weight exercises (squats, hand walks, crawls, lunges, etc.) are very effective to improve flexibility because they involve multiple muscle groups, and the body is trained to engage them to function as one unit.