"True flexibility can be achieved only when all muscles are uniformly developed"
- Joseph Pilates
This is a picture of Joseph Pilates doing several of his 34 exercises. He certainly looks very flexible and strong. Pilates was still teaching and doing his exercises right up to his death at 85.
So why does flexibility start to become a problem as we age?
It is a sad fact of life that, as we get older, we lose collagen (the glue that holds our muscles, tendons and ligaments together), joints become stiffer so that getting out of bed or up out of a chair gets harder until eventually we just seize up.
THE BODY'S MECHANICS
The body muscles and skeleton consists of a system of muscles levers and pulleys which is the muscles that contract and release to create movement. As one muscle lengthens another muscle contracts in unison and works beautifully most of the time. When this system starts to fail then the brain will not let go and relax any muscles unless and until the body is supported.
Hamstring tightness and lack of lower body flexibility can lead to lower back pain.
Poor posture, inefficient breathing techniques, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise can all contribute to a lack of flexibility.
We can blame our parents and genetics for flexibility of lack of because it is down what sort of muscles we inherit. The slim active type will probably very flexible for most of their life but will find it hard to build muscle. At the other end of the spectrum is the muscular athlete who will become very inflexible at an early age.
In 2010 a study of Pilates for improvement of muscle endurance, flexibility, balance and posture was done by JA Klouber on 50 people who attended mat Pilates classes twice a week for 12 weeks doing a basic mat routine. Klouber found that muscular strength had improved in the upper body and flexibility had increased in the hamstrings and his conclusions were:
"The study suggests that individuals can improve their muscular endurance and flexibility using relatively low intensity Pilates mat exercises"
- J A Klouber
Pilates - Kneeling Side Bend is a great exercise for improving balance, posture, inner strength and flexibility.
Suggested Pilates exercises for flexibility:
The Roll Up