Top 5 Beginner Stretches
For someone who attended a performing arts program in college, I was familiar with the idea of “practice”. That usually presented itself as taking ballet between my regularly scheduled classes in hopes to improve my horrendous pirouettes (they never got better…). I recognized a missing cog in my pursuit of fine-tuning my technique, and that was a sound flexibility routine.
One was expected to be flexible as a dancer, but unfortunately for me I started late as a teenager. I searched for anything that could possibly teach me the splits, because that was recognized to be the peak of flexibility. And this was before YouTube tutorials, which meant that I had to borrow DVD’s from the Performing Arts Library. It was a yoga inspired flexibility lesson taught by Rodney Yee, and I distinctly remember how I far I felt from my goals. I practiced the routine once, maybe twice, and dropped it. It wasn’t the content itself, but the discipline of training yourself without having a class to attend was missing. I was conditioned to “take a class”, instead of carving out time for myself to improve. In this case, it was to become more flexible, and I failed to create a habit that would bring me closer to stretch success.
Fast forward to where I encountered contortion training (I know…major leap here…), and this is where I fully immersed myself into a discipline that transformed my flexibility. What I learned—and this was perhaps the more vital element—was that I needed to stretch in between classes on my own. I still attended classes, I took workshops, but ultimately the time I spent on my own training between lessons is what sustained my efforts. Because if I didn’t, it felt as if I started from scratch each and every time.
What does this all have to do with creating a movement habit? The first point is to surrender to the notion that you need to attend a class, or an “official” event to work on yourself. Whether it’s flexibility, strength, or general movement—it all comes down to how consistent you can be on your own. Secondly, realize that it’s ok to not dedicate 30-60 minutes each time you want to practice. We tend to scoff at 10-15 minutes sessions, and ask “why bother”? I would argue that cumulatively, these smaller sessions compound over time. And before you know it, dedicating a few minutes of your day to movement will become second nature. So much so, that stiffness and discomfort are more prevalent if you skip an opportunity to move and stretch.
And what do these smaller sessions usually entail? It could be as simple as doing an arch and curl sequence in your office chair. Maybe you can take standing breaks between bouts of your daily work routine. Shoulder circles are great because they don’t take up much space. Or perhaps combine your favorite stretches and link them for a bedtime flow. There are a number of strategies to help create a movement habit. I think imposing unrealistic expectations on ourselves can form a myopic view and prevent us from achieving the bigger picture. Before you know it, these moments become non-negotiable. And that dedication could lead to more classes, home workouts, visits to the gym, and overall a surge in prioritizing your exercise.
The connection between attending class, and carving out time to work on movement is the catalyst for habit forming. Prioritizing those fleeting moments where you would typically bypass, is where the change happens. Creating a movement habit can be as simple as performing hip circles while brushing your teeth. These shifts don’t have to be enormous in the beginning. However, the time spent in cultivating these changes will begin to evolve your approach to movement, as well as your life.
Alicia Archer is a popular fitness instructor based in New York City. Certified by the AFAA, Alicia began her teaching career at Equinox, where she refined her skills in teaching several of their signature formats. Alicia discovered a way to integrate her knowledge of dance, into engaging movement patterns that class participants enjoyed. Alicia believes the human body is capable of moving through several planes of motion, and relies on sequencing to navigate different pathways for a stimulating workout. She trains regularly in aerial, contortion and hand-balancing. Now well-versed in the workings of flexibility, she combines her specialty in body weight training with the knowledge of mobility and stretching techniques. Alicia believes discipline lies within, and that tremendous results are possible for anybody willing to put in the work. Alicia offers both in-person and online classes. To learn more visit: kinkysweatnyc.com
This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.