As a yoga instructor, people often ask me how the hell I put my leg behind my head, and how they, too, can learn to do that.
Plenty of people want to learn how to become more flexible, but at the same time, too many are just looking for the instant gratification of falling right into a full, satisfying split, without any practice.
My honest response to people who want to work on their flexibility is to recommend working a consistent yoga practice into their routine about four to five times a week.
However, I have come to accept I simply can't win 'em all -- some people just despise yoga.
Thankfully, I'm here to tell you there are plenty of ways to learn how to touch your toes that don't involve any downward dog poses at all.
Here are five simple ways to improve your flexibility when a vinyasa flow is just not your vibe.
I know, this one's a no-brainer, but it really is key for maintaining a bendy bod.
Always warm up with dynamic stretching before your workouts, and end with static stretching or foam rolling to ease your muscles into a rest period.
I used to be totally guilty of skipping out on stretches, but when I started treating them with the same importance as my actual workouts, that's when I really saw my muscles begin to open up.
2. Balance Your Bod
Balance and flexibility go together like PB and J.
If you're doing one exercise or stretch on one side of your body, make sure you're repeating the same movement on the other side.
Just as you make sure to balance your workout circuits, look for subtle ways in your day-to-day life to keep up the practice.
For example, if you have a heavy work bag that you can only wear on one shoulder, consider switching to a backpack.
These little changes may seem pointless at first, but you'll be surprised by the changes in your balance you'll see over time.
3. Be Consistent
Consistency is so crucial as you embark on your journey to flexibility.
As with just about anything, you're only going to see results if you consistently put in the work required to get there.
Pro tip: The next time you're watching Netflix, try holding pigeon pose for just a few minutes on each side.
I know, I know, it's technically yoga, but hear me out. If you can manage to make this a habit, you'll notice drastic improvements in your hip flexibility, which is absolutely key for nailing a split.
And, TBH, you'll be surprised to find how much you crave the stretch after just a few sessions.
4. Don't Push Or Force Anything
The biggest mistakes I see in the quest for stretchy calves typically come when people try to do too much, too fast.
Slow down -- flexibility doesn't happen overnight.
Regardless of how flexible (or not) you are when you first start training for that bendy bod, believe me, you will see results. It's jut going to take some time.
Think of flexibility as a marathon, rather than a sprint.
Listen to your body, because forcing it into poses it's not ready for will lead you down a road to injury (which will definitely halt your progress).
As someone who couldn't touch her toes at the beginning of my journey, and two years later I can stop, drop, and split -- I promise, you'll get there.
5. Set #Goals
Make flexibility fun!
If it seems like a chore, you're more likely to fall out of your routine.
Find poses that inspire you, and make a list of things you'd like to achieve. Put post-it notes on the wall of your room, or even print out images of the movements or poses you'd like to be able to do someday.
And be realistic with yourself about what your body is capable of doing. While a Cirque Du Soleil class definitely looks like fun, improving your backbends is probably a more realistic, and less frustrating goal to aim for when you first get started.