Remember second-grade ballet class, when you could almost do a split? Yeah, not so much anymore. That’s because the adage “use it or lose it” is totally true when it comes to our muscles. But by taking a few simple steps day, you’ll not only maintain your flexibility; you’ll improve it. Splits (er, toe-touching), here we come.
START EVERY MORNING WITH A SUN SALUTATION
Any yoga move will help increase flexibility—but if your muscles feel tight first thing in the a.m., there’s nothing better than a ten-minute sun salutation to open things up. Best of all, you don’t have to be an expert yogi to try it. (We love this easy step-by-step tutorial by Yoga with Adriene.)
SIT UP STRAIGHT
If you have an office job, this one’s especially important. We know your posture doesn’t seem like a big deal, but think about it: When you slump over, your entire spine compresses. Sit like this for long enough and you might lose flexibility in your spine, which affects muscles throughout your entire body. ( Psst , if you need a reminder to straighten up, this app can help.)
Yep, it’s the cure for basically everything, so swap that soda for a tall glass of H20 right this second. When your muscles are dehydrated, they actually tighten and shrink, Kaiser Permanente nephrologist Steven Guest, MD, tells WebMD. Drinking your 64 ounces a day should do the trick. But two hours before any strenuous exercise, drink 16 ounces of water (about two glasses), and continue to hydrate during and after your workout.
KNOW YOUR TROUBLE SPOTS
Most people are more flexible in certain areas than others. You might be able to toe touch like a boss, but try opening your legs into a butterfly pose and… ow, ow, ow . So if your biggest challenge is tight hips, focus on slow and gentle flexor-opening stretches—like butterfly and runner’s lunge—for ten minutes a day.
This one sounds counterintuitive, but if you want to improve your flexibility, you should never be stretching yourself to your limit, notes WebMD. Instead, use your body weight and breath to deepen your stretches for a few minutes at a time, without bouncing or pushing. (Oh, and stretching on the living room floor while doing some serious Netflixing definitely counts.)