Perhaps Pilates has been recommended to you by a health care professional – chiro, physio, bio or doctor - to increase or control your flexibility. While Pilates does not solely focus on flexibility it is a big component of what makes it such an effective form of exercise. Why is flexibility so important?
Tight muscles are not a good thing
Your body is designed to function when the joints (spine, pelvis, knees, shoulders and so on) are in their optimal position or alignment. Tight or shortened muscles not only feel tense and painful, but pull strongly on the joints and over time can force the joint out of position or limit its range of movement. This creates problems not only for the joint that the tight muscles are pulling on, but for the whole body as your brain tries to rewire your posture to adapt to the malalignment.
Excessive lack of flexibility is called hypo-mobility.
Generally muscular tightness occurs in three situations; during prolonged periods of inactivity such as sitting at a desk, during exercise, and after exercising. While you may think it feels or looks great when you have tight, bunched up muscles after a workout we now know that this could lead to postural malalignment, increasing wear and tear on joints and other structures. This is why it is so important to stretch relevant muscle groups after exercising, or during a long working day. Contrary to what you may think stretching is not a long arduous process – some very beneficial stretches need only be held for 20 seconds, and can be easily incorporated into your work routine.
Too much movement is not good either!
Similarly, too much flexibility (hypermobility) can lead to postural problems and eventually cartilage and joint damage. If you are hyper-mobile your tendons and ligaments allow too much movement for the joints to safely manage. Just as above, this creates problems for your whole body. It is important to learn how to stabilise and support the hypermobile areas and to work within a safe range of movement.