Flexibility – the ability to move the joints or any group of joints through an entire, normal range of motion. Normal is different for every one. I was the only student my jr. high school gym teacher passed without doing a back bend. I tried for almost a year and I don’t bend that way. Flexibility can be limited by your ligaments which connect bone to bone and your bone structure. It is an often overlooked component of being fit. Flexibility can help prevent injuries. Yoga has helped my flexibility more than anything else.
Animals stretch all the time (cat photo by Zoltan Tasi). Our flexibility is being compromised by our current lifestyle. All the sitting we do shortens our hamstrings which can lead to back and knee issues. Driving, working on computers and phones shorten the muscles of the chest. I often stand and cross my hands to my elbows behind my back to counter act this constant forward motion. Do you get up and stretch a bit when sitting for a long time? Consider setting a reminder on your computer.
Flexibility is also influenced by our tendons and fascia. Tendons connect bones to muscle and don’t lengthen a lot. Fascia encloses our muscles and it can make up as much as 30% of our muscle mass. It is a flat band of tissue below the skin that covers underlying tissues. Fascia surrounds more than the muscles, it surrounds bones, nerves, and organs.
Myofascial release through foam rolling is popular now. Tension in the fascia and myofascial adhesions can develop through stress, training, overuse, underuse, movement imbalances and injuries, trauma, posture, or inflammation. I taught a foam roller class 15 years ago and much has changed. We no longer roll through pain we back off. Avoid rolling on the joints. Finding a good massage therapist can also help with flexibility.