Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a contortionist? Or how yogis can hold these amazing and incredible poses and move their bodies in ways that you couldn't even imagine they could? Have you ever wanted to move your bones in any desired directions? Have you ever wished that you could do it yourself for fun or would like to take it seriously and build a career out of it? If your answer is yes then in this article you are going to discover the deepest secrets on how to master this possibility and at the same time impossible beautiful discipline.
Before going through the steps needed to master this fantastic performance art and the required skills, let’s find out first what contortionism is and what health benefits it brings.
What’s contortionism? It is an art of unnatural flexibility which allows its performers (contortionists) to bend and twist in all different kinds of directions with ease and grace.
What health benefits does it bring?
It improves concentration and memory
It improves your strength, balance, endurance and flexibility
You’ll more likely to look and feel younger than other people
There are more chances of your life expectancy to be longer
You less likely to suffer of osteoarthritis
If you would like to discover the secrets of longevity check out the post “Secrets of longevity and how to look and feel younger”
There are 2 different types of contortionists: a “front bender” and a “back bender”. Usually men are more front benders and women are more back benders but of course that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any amazing men back benders performers or fantastic women front benders.
Which jobs can I do with my contortionism skills and where can I work?
You can be a circus artist (such as an acrobat), a gymnast, an advanced yogi, a dancer and you could work in a circus, in a dance school, a model, in a yoga centre, in a gymnastic club as a performer or teacher. Whatever you do with this skill you can make a really good living out of it as especially if you are a good contortionist, you can attract the market and get paid good money by just doing a photo-shoot! It could also be a side job to your main job in order to earn some extra money.
What do you need to start up?
In order to begin your training as a contortionist all you really need is your body, so unlike for example ballet, taking up contortionism is actually really cheap. You could have a yoga mat or somewhere soft such as a bed or sofa to practice poses and moves such as back-bends, scorpions, forward bends, splits, over-splits etc. What would really help is if you are naturally flexible as that will make the all process easier. Don't worry if you aren't as you can still become a contortionist but will just take you much longer to achieve that ultra flexibility. A good advice from myself would be to start with some easy yoga exercises and my favourite style is Yin Yoga as by holding the position for 1 to 2 minutes (it is one of the Yin Yoga requirements) you can considerably improve your suppleness. I would probably do that (depending on how much range of flexibility you have) 1 or 2 months before starting contortionism training. One of the main key is to warm up because the warmer you are the easier and less uncomfortable will be the all stretching experience. This is because when your muscles are warm they are looser and they're almost like elastic bands. If you are not safe with your stretches you will end up injuring yourself delaying the all process of gaining suppleness. So be patient because all good things come with perseverance, belief and hard work.
At what age should I start?
Ideally you should start at a young age but depending on your natural flexibility level you can even start in your 30s. I started contortionism in a circus in the Valencia community when I was 35 years old but because I started ballet at 21 and I did some gymnastics and Karate as a teenager my body was already quite flexible. I only did it for a few months and then because of the lack of time (due to my ballet training) I had to give it up but I never stopped pushing myself in my flexibility stretching. In that little time though, I have learned how to use my muscles in an effective way and how to hold my flexibility. I also improved my back flexibility considerably and I was able to begin the scorpion pose. So the most crucial advice that I would share is that you need to be mobile as the longer you are sedentary during the day the stiffer your muscles will become.
If you are also into ballet check out the post “9 Positive tips: first ballet class for adults”
There are also many other fitness, health and ballet posts to discover on this page "Lifestyle and ballet"
If you would like to improve your flexibility please check out the post “Easy life: how to increase your range of flexibility”
How much do I have to practice?
The main important thing that you need to remember and that you must be consistent with is your training and that you need to warm up before you start. Ensuring that your muscles are warm before beginning the training will not only help to avoid getting injuries and muscle soreness but will also make it easier to stretch them as they will be more relaxed. In regards to how much you should practice; daily is a minimum of 3 hours but of course that also depends on the goals you set and from the level of suppleness that you already possess. I believe, from my experience, that for a beginner the more hours you do the quicker you’ll improve. A great strategy would be to train different contortionist skills during the day such as flexibility, strength and balance. So if you have 3 hours you could do 1 hour in the morning, 1 in the afternoon and one in the evening. For some people who work during the day it might be easier to do 1 hour and a half in the morning before going to work and the other 1 hour and a half in the evening after you get back from work. Some working hours or if you are a school, college or university student might be different so you will need to work around your daily schedule in order to fit your contortionism training. As I mentioned before it is with the utmost importance that you keep practising everyday as if you only miss one day that means that you would have to work 1 week in order to regain that flexibility lost. Lastly you can practice your stretching while watching TV, listening to music, doing your homework, doing some work on the computer, reading a book etc.
What kind of diet should I follow?
The main thing that you should include in your diet is plenty of water to keep your body hydrated during the day. Our body is made up of 70% of water and it is for that reason that a lack of it will affect our muscles performance in the sense that they will not be able to contract and extend effectively. So always make sure that you bring a refillable bottle (not keep buying one) with you as in that way we are also looking after our beautiful planet.
In regards to what food to eat a diet rich in protein, fruit and vegetables without any unhealthy fat, sugars, salt would be the ideal. Of course that doesn’t mean that you are not allowed a daily dessert but just try to not abuse it and instead select snacks which are healthier and give you a boost of energy. Some of the food to include in your diet are eggs, avocado, broccoli, oats, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sea bass, mackerel), olive oil, fruit (possibly organic) such as bananas, blueberries, green apple, water melon, strawberries and oranges, nuts (almonds, Brazilian nuts, cashews), sweet potatoes. A healthy snack which I enjoy is popcorn as they are high in fibre and they are a source of antioxidants called poliphenols. They are also great to control cravings as they will fill you up for a while so you will tend to eat less of the unhealthy food.
If you are looking to get into shape before starting your training check out the post “How to lose weight, get toned and feel amazing”
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Check out the post "Amazing ways on how to improve your balance & stability"
What other things do I need to know in order to make the most of my training?
Divide your training by working on different abilities such as equilibrium, flexibility and strength. There must be a balance between all these and depending on which one you need to work on more, it is crucial that you spend some of your time to train each of them. A good example is that if you are too supple it can mean that you are too weak and if you are too strong your muscles are too tight to loosen and it will be hard to stretch them.
Wear comfortable, stretchy, loose fitting clothing which is fitted perfectly to your body (perfect size). Contortionists usually prefer wearing catsuits or unitards as they keep you warm, they let you slide easily into different positions and they are almost like a second skin which will not make the executions of the movements difficult.
Be patient! It is important to realise that it will take time to see results and at the beginning most of the stretches and moves will feel uncomfortable. What you must remind yourself is that the more you repeat the stretches and moves the quickest you’ll progress because your body will get used to it and you’ll experience less muscle soreness.
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