Seven Tips To Maximize Your Flexibility
1) Stretch am and pm
In the morning you will find that your muscles are stiff so it's important not to push too much but take the time to tune into your body. Breathe into your stretch. Stretching in the morning is harder than in the evening but its one of the best ways to increase flexibility.
2) Know the difference between a warm up and stretching
My early morning sessions at the Shaolin Temple always began with a quick warm up before we went for our mountain run. Although some stretching was involved it was not the intensive stretching that we did later on but more of a quick check to make sure our joints were working properly.
3) Always stretch after your workout
For martial artists this is the optimum time to increase your flexibility. Your joints and muscles are warm, which means you can go further with your stretch and it also helps to decrease the build up of lactic acid in your muscles. Not stretching out after a workout can lead to a feeling of stiffness the next day.
4) Do the Five Fundamental Shaolin Kicks
After stretching move on and do the Five Fundamental Kicks that are taught in Shaolin Workout Volume 1. These kicks increase flexibility to the legs and the hips. Start off in a relaxed and loose way, kicking from the hip rather than from the leg. Stretch in between the kicks to loosen the leg and kick again. When you move into the splits you'll be surprised at how much further you can go.
5) Do a little stretching everyday
Even five minutes a day counts. If you like to watch TV then find a way to stretch while you watch TV. On the escalator, place your left heel a little off the step and stretch out your calf muscle. Alternate with your right heel. Find creative ways to include stretching in your day-to-day life.
6) Alternate your stretching
Our bodies are lazy and they quickly adapt so it’s a good idea to keep it on its toes by alternating the stretching that you do and challenging your body. Yoga stretches can be mixed with kung fu stretches and vice versa. Whatever helps your body open
7) Focus on Optimal Flexibility for you
We all need to have a certain amount of flexibility but remember we are all different. It's crucial that you never push yourself too hard and you work with your own body. If you want to get your head on your knees, don't strain to get there or bend your legs in the process. Remember there never should be any pain when you stretch only patience. More details can be found on stretching in my book: Instant Health: The Shaolin Workout For Longevity.