Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bending Over Backwards - On Being a Contortionist



Ever wondered how those incredible postures you've seen on TV or at the circus can do their fantastic poses and how they feel? Ever wanted to be able to do it yourself? You can. It might take time, blood, sweat and tears, but you can learn to be a contortionist.

A contortionist is an acrobatic performer who specializes in the athletic skill of contortionism. This is the art of bending or twisting the body in unusual and unnatural looking ways. A contortionist commonly performs in circus acts and incorporates props such as a bow and arrow, trapezes and hoops into their act.

Contortionists are not only able to flex their spines in amazing ways. Many can also bend their arms and legs into unique positions as well. One position, called a dislocate, involves contorting the body so that the performer appears to have dislocated his/her joints.

A contortionist might be one of the most physically fit people around. Using mind, body and breathing exercises in contortionism training, he or she maintains a daily regimen for healthy living. Interestingly, this art form is very similar to the more commonly known practice of yoga. In fact, advanced yoga exercises are often the same of those of a contortionist.

Some people are born with unusually flexible joints. But even those with average flexibility can train to become a contortionist Either way, training is rquired.

Contorting isn't as difficult as it seems. It's a natural way of living. A backbend (or even back fold) that might look impossible to you will in time feel like any natural move and be very enjoyable to do. Just observe any member of the animal kingdom. Every animal exercises every day and they instinctively know that the secret of a long and healthy life is a flexible spine. Any part of the body that is not continually used will eventually cease to function. Why many aren't stretching or even contorting is almost a mystery. Anyone can become good in contorting if you only take your time and believe that you will get there one day, because it's much about believing and giving it time. For some of you it will take no time at all, but some of you will have to struggle a little bit, maybe because you've lost some of your flexibility because of age or gender. Something that is recommended is to stretch daily for around a month before you start doing any contorting exercises. Yoga is recommend warmly since it will give you the basic flexibility and strengh needed to do the exercises without struggling too much. Also yoga is very similar to contortion. If you follow the program you'll begin with around one hour and increase the time as you improve.

Benefits

Contortionist work has many benefits, such as:

That you probably will be one of those that won't suffer of osteo arthritis when you get old.

That when you get old you'll most likely look much younger than most people in your age.

That medical surveys show that contortionists not only has a great resistance to every day complaints, pain and disease, but their general health is excellent and they live considerably longer than folks in any other professions.

That if you suffer from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is a familial disorder of the connective tissue, you will most likely get results much quicker than a healthy person, but at the same time feel less of the symptoms. How people are built also decides how far it's possible to go or how much. Many times it only means that it will take longer to learn to do some things while others come easily. Most important is to practice daily.

That your strength will improve

That your range of movement will improve dramatically

That this is the most natural and inexpensive way of exercising that exists. It won't cost you a penny. All you need is yourself, some space and your furniture. Anyone that is serious, willing to put enough time and has patience.

Types of Contortionists

Either a contortionist is are a "front bender" or a "back bender" and all the facets of the act are built on these movements and the ability to hyper extend or hyper flex the spine. The front bender is many times the "funny man" as he can take up ludicrous positions and perform amusing feats like placing the feet around the neck while standing on one hand. In contrast to the front bender the back bender or "posturer" has a more serious act. It's often a woman, but as I said it doesn't have to be like that. The back bender performs specialty acts or incorporates the abilities into a graceful dance routine.


Hours of Practicing

A typical contortionist practices daily for around three hours or even more. Don't get scared of this. The three hours can be one hour in the morning, one during the day and one in the evening before going to bed. It can also mean that you do the different exercises spread out during the day. The alternative with spreading out the practicing will help you to keep supple.

However, it's important to do the exercises daily, even if you only do one hour each day (and around one hour is what you should begin with). Loosing one day of exercising means that it can take up to one week to reach the same level of flexibility. The same is if you miss out a weeks exercises. It can take a month to reach the same level. So if you can't set aside some time each day to exercise don't start contortion training (and miss the best experience of your life).

No matter who you are if you only do what's told in the instructions you will be able to do most or everything shown and you'll be hooked in no time. Already after one week you will see results and be amazed. The most interesting thing you'll find out quick is that your brain won't understand what's happening. If you close your eyes and do a back bend or split or which position you want to do you'll be amazed and pleased over that you can do it so well and maybe how deep it is the second you open your eyes. That gives an extreme rush. Only this feeling is something making it worth to try. With this program it's estimated that it takes around 3 months, depending on how supple/stiff you are, to place your feet on either side of your head, from a prone position, but of course the younger you are when you start, the easier it will be.

Clothing and Environment

There are many different clothes to wear while exercising. Recommended is to wear loose fitting attire. Unitards are very good both for men and women, but a bikini or shorts can be as good as that. Important is that your clothes don't disturb you in the exercises or make it difficult in any way to move.

Also the environment in the room can be important. Try to have cool temperature in the room while exercising. It's obvious since it's both easier to breathe and you don't sweat while doing the exercises

There are some rules to follow if you want to get good results from the exercises and most important of all, don't want to get hurt.

ALWAYS DO THE WARM UP EXERCISES BEFORE YOU START TO DO SOME (ANY) SERIOUS STRETCHING!

This is very important, no matter whether you can sit on your shoulders, do the best over splits in the world or are a new beginner. A good warm up can also be to run around a little bit, maybe in stairs and then light stretching to where you can get without feeling that the muscles get tense. This means no real stretching, but during several repeats you go to the the most flexible position where you feel comfortable, but not further! The warm ups promote circulation, respiration and general loosening of joint bindings.

Without warming up you will most likely get hurt!

Any athlete, dancer, gymnast or contortionist does if they don't warm up. Another thing worth to remember is that many things that you do during the day can be done in a flexible way. Why not bend forward with legs straight when you're going to tie your shoe laces or maybe chat, read books or watch TV while in a split, over split or back bend, back fold when you get there. You will feel very healthy of this and at the same time you will prevent any loss of flexibility during the day. This will also make you more ready for the more serious exercises.

If the next exercise is too difficult don't do it - yet. When you've succeeded with the exercise you're doing then move along to the next exercise. Continuing like that in time you will be able to do all of them and then it's good to do as many of them as possible.

Remember that if you're impatient and force your body you will only strain something and have to wait until you heal, before you can start again.

Repeats are the key. 10-25 repeats are the best depending on your age, gender, flexibility etc. The number of repeats in this case is a recommendation. If it should be carried out 20 times and you carry it out 40 times, it doesn't mean that you will get twice the flexibility and if you carry it out 60 times you may find that your muscles are stiffening up again. Try to keep the repeats on a level that feels good. You'll find very quickly which amount of repeats is the best for you.

Again never forget about doing all the warm up exercises you can handle and then after warming up the stretching exercises. You'll work the same way with the stretching exercises. The difference from the warm ups is that here you'll try to stretch out as much as you can without getting hurt or uncomfortable. You'll work with the exercises the same way as you do in the warm ups, but always with the difference that you want to achieve the maximum flexibility by stretching out as much as possible. When you have reached the maximum stretch in an exercise count 1-2-3-4-5 and then go back to the resting or initial position and start over doing the next repeat trying to get a little further. In the last repeat try to stay as long as possible in the position. You will find that in time you will be able to stay as longer and longer in more extreme positions and in the end for as long as you want like that without any discomfort.

After doing the stretching exercises it can be good to do the stretches, but only with one repeat, the same way as you did in the warm up. This way you can convince yourself and, most important, your mind what your real flexibility is and this will help you the next time when you stretch out. Those five minutes doing this are as important as the whole exercise. What the brain believes and what's really happening are two different things.

Also it's good to have someone watching you while you exercise, not only to make certain you carry them out correctly, but to ensure your back bends are carried out by the whole spine and not just between two vertebrae. Particular care should be taken in the area of the lower back. Finally, when you do back bend exercises always combine them with front bend exercises.

How Cirque Du Soleil's Contortionists Become Flexible







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