I think I’m improving. It’s incremental progress, but it’s progress nonetheless.
For some people who are a little more, um, hippie, stretches do nothing for flexibility.
Here is what Michael Taylor said:
What scientists and athletes now understand is that flexibility begins in your mind. If your mind thinks it needs to defend against injury (or against you!) it will do that, bracing for impact, making you less flexible.
At first I thought he was saying “it’s all mental.” But after watching this video, I realized that by “mind,” he meant “brain/body/reaction” instead.
However, both of these guys gave some pretty solid advice for stretching, even if I disagree with some of the stuff they say. Check this out:
Rather than hold yourself in your “deepest stretch” and wait for it to be over, try moving around gently. […] Keep a slight bend in your knee and stay relaxed in your leg, so as you roll from right to left, your leg can roll around too. Sometimes your knee will face straight up, sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left. That’s OK! You want to let your body move naturally and do its own thing.
It might not be obvious at first, but if you want more flexibility, focus more on your breath than on your muscles. This will put your mind at ease, and create the right conditions for your muscles to release tension.
And then this other guy, Andrew Read, says some similar things:
The most important thing I need to do is convince my body that changing the length of the hamstring isn’t dangerous. This is the slowest part of the whole process and has taken as long as thirty minutes to work through in the past, although these days it takes about ten.
I usually just lie on my back with my feet propped up against a wall, legs extended. To begin with I may be a foot away from the wall, but as my body begins to accept that the level of length I am asking for isn’t dangerous it slowly relaxes that vice-like tension in my right hamstring.
Anyway, he starts going into PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stuff, which I believe helps relax the muscles into stretching more. First you contract a muscle for a few seconds, then you relax it, then you pull it into the stretch again, but further.
A study that will be published in the December 2014 issue of the Journal of Sports Medicine and Fitness found that gymnasts could increase their flexibility more after PNF stretching than after static stretches.
PNF is something I’m pretty unfamiliar with, but it seems simple enough. I’ll try incorporating it into my stretches.