Flexibly Loose
September 14, 2009 11:44 PM   Subscribe

To those of you who are really flexible: do you feel relaxed and 'loose' all the time?
posted by madh to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to hone this question into a finer point.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:51 PM on September 14, 2009

posted by serazin at 12:02 AM on September 15, 2009

Well I'm not particularly flexible and can at times feel pretty tight, especially in the upper shoulders when sitting at a computer for hours at a time. I've had a few massages before and after each one, I felt like a millions bucks. Really loose, really relaxed, and I just moved better. I'm just wondering if people are permanently in such a relaxed state.
posted by madh at 12:04 AM on September 15, 2009

No. I actually tend to overarch my back pretty much all the time and it causes me a lot of lower back pain. But I've also never pulled a muscle in my life. My neck tenses up and hurts when I'm at a computer etc like everyone else. I think that has more too do with muscle strain than flexibility. I think I can stretch and loosen up a lot quicker and easier than less flexible people though.
posted by whoaali at 12:09 AM on September 15, 2009

If you constantly pay attention to your posture and sensation of your body you'll find that your body becomes naturally more supple and relaxed because you tend to only tense what is necessary. Learning how to pay attention is another matter, however.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:11 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Most flexible person I've ever known was a trained dancer, who could stand on the spot, lift her own foot above her head, and point it to the sky just like you or I would look up at the ceiling, or bend forwards and with straight legs, plant both palms flat on the ground.

She carried chronic spinal injuries, took the kind of painkillers you need a specialist's prescription for, and couldn't sit on an office chair for more than half an hour without pain. That's my data point.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:17 AM on September 15, 2009

I was about to answer "People always tell me I'm easy going, but I'm usually pretty wound up".

Did you mean "Go with the flow" flexible or "Human pretzel" flexible?
posted by GilloD at 12:18 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty flexible for a guy, I think -- I can touch my knuckles to the ground with my legs straight -- and I still get knots in my upper back from sitting badly pretty regularly. And my lower back starts to ache if I stand around for too long -- every time I got to a museum, for example. And sometimes my neck stiffens up from sleeping wrong or whatever. And I tend to be really nervous and chew on my fingers constantly. But I'm not really sure what you mean by "really flexible" or by "relaxed and loose".
posted by creasy boy at 12:20 AM on September 15, 2009

I'm flexible. Relaxed and loose until I was about 25 but started having mild leg issues after then. Calf muscles are often very tight and I chronically bounce my leg(s) while sitting. Drives my wife crazy sometimes, to my endless chagrin. I also apparently move my legs a lot while I'm sleeping, including a new habit of pressing one leg hard enough into the mattress to make the springs grind. That one's a puzzler. Still flexible, though.
posted by empyrean at 12:47 AM on September 15, 2009

Tom Kurz talks about different types of flexibilty.
posted by the cuban at 1:10 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

In college, I found myself in a yoga course. After a semester of regular yoga, I improved decently, although not dramatically. I wasn't particularly flexible to begin with, and I felt remarkably loose and relaxed after each session. That faded after a few hours though. I can't say I felt relaxed all the time, but I can say that I felt less tightened all the time, if that makes any sense. I got rid of my occasional mild upper back and shoulder pain, most likely from sitting in front of a computer as well.

If you get rid of the tightness, it will feel nice and loose for a while, then it just becomes a normal thing. So, if the subtext to your question is "Will being flexible make my back feel better?" then I'll say it just might. Worked for me, at least.
posted by Saydur at 1:16 AM on September 15, 2009

Flexibility isn't really something you notice until you reach your limits, and then maybe you realize those are a bit farther away for you than for your grandmother. I suspect that even people who perform markedly better on various flexibility tests don't feel markedly relaxed and loose because this is a normal for them. You notice after a massage precisely because the massage has induced an abnormally relaxed state. Wikipedia habituation.

Also, flexibility is a function of muscle length and I think the post-massage feeling has more to do with muscle tone (i.e., tension). You feel looser because when you contract some muscle, its antagonist is quivering in a little puddle somewhere instead of tightened up making you fight it. (IANAMasseuse)
posted by d. z. wang at 1:19 AM on September 15, 2009

I LOVE this question. I'm hyper-flexive in all joints and massively double jointed as well. I can go down into a full splits without stretching and I feel no stretch or pain from it. I can sit on the floor with my legs straight out and raise my feet about 6 inches off the floor (while my thighs still rest on the floor). For many muscles, I physically can't stretch enough to feel a stretch.

Am I flexible? YES.

Do I get "tight"? Absolutely.

My shoulders especially are notorious for getting very knotted up but pretty much all of the muscles in my upper and lower back are in knots. As much as my flexibility is a blessing, I think it's also a curse. My joints are so loose that I get joint pain. Doctors have told me this will especially haunt me later in life when my muscles aren't so ... muscular. My joints will still be just as loose but my muscles won't be as strong to keep everything where it belongs. Apparently the same thing happens with dancers after they retire (or so the doc says) because they lose all that strong muscle that was supporting the flexible joints.

I definitely know what you mean with regards to feeling relaxed, because I feel the same way after a good massage. However, I can personally tell you that my flexibilty does not *keep* me that kind of relaxed in the least.
posted by kthxbi at 1:52 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, as a counter-example, I'm the least flexible person I know - I can't cross my legs properly, have trouble touching my toes, and I can pull a muscle scratching the back of my neck. But despite that, I can't remember ever really suffering muscle tightness, neck or back pain. I can sit in front of my computer for eight hours straight, day after day, and end up with nothing worse than eye-strain. The last person who tried to give me a back massage (after ten hours sat in a cramped van) gave up after 2 minutes because my muscles were already too relaxed for it to make any difference. I'm inclinced to agree with others who say these are two different things.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:23 AM on September 15, 2009

By the way, flexibility can co-exist with terrible postural issues. I just recently discovered that my whole pelvis sits crookedly. I'm sure this has to do with certain muscles being too tight, but as I said, I'm pretty flexible every which way, so obviously other things are overcompensating. But the joints won't overcompensate, so over time I'll be fucked unless I get it fixed. The way that it feels natural for me to sit, stand, walk etc. is wrong and entirely asymmetrical, although I'd describe myself as "loose" in those positions. So, I don't think flexibility has anything to do with being "balanced" or with general physical or spiritual health. Stretching can relax you, but I don't think you stay more relaxed over time just because your absolute flexibility is higher.
posted by creasy boy at 3:48 AM on September 15, 2009

I'm very flexible and often have pains and tightness - but part of the reason for being flexible is that because of serious injuries in the past I make a point to try and keep myself flexible and strong to avoid losing minor motor skills and suffering blinding pain and having to go on meds.

Before the accident, when I was just flexible from my general body type and lifestyle, I did, in fact, feel relaxed and 'loose' all the time.

Why do you ask? The general view - both in western and ancient eastern medicine - is that keeping your basic structure in good working order is better for you, and not doing so is analogous to riding around with bicycle wheels out of true - you start stressing parts and those parts start stressing other parts and things fall apart.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:16 AM on September 15, 2009

Same here. Not very flexible (about 2cm from touching my toes when I lean forward with straight legs; very inflexible hamstrings). Yet I hardly ever pull a muscle or have muscle or joint pain.

Kinks (like wearing a heavy shoulder bag for a day) work themselves out within a few hours. I never get back pain from walking around, and my job usually entails standing around for 7-8 hours a day. I often go for a run afterward, with no ill effects.
posted by flippant at 5:30 AM on September 15, 2009

I'm fairly flexible according to my trainer, although I can't (and have always wanted to) do the splits. I get tight and knotted and sore in my upper back and shoulders from sitting at the computer. I also get massages a few times a year, so I know that "loose" feeling you're talking about. I don't feel like that all the time.

The problem that you're experiencing due to computer usage is not at all related to flexibility, it's related to posture. I bet if you start paying attention to your posture throughout the day you'll find that your shoulders keep creeping up towards your ears and hunching forward around your chest. This is what's causing the tightness and soreness.

A regular exercise routine will help. Yoga in particular was helpful for me, although it hasn't made me much more flexible. Practicing body awareness will also help; if it becomes second nature to pay attention to your posture and correct it, you won't be hunching for such long periods of time.

Massages are great, but they won't fix the problem longterm.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:14 AM on September 15, 2009

I'm hyperflexible, and I'm pretty sore most of the time. Seconding everything that kthxbi said.
posted by Ruki at 6:17 AM on September 15, 2009

Anecdotal: I have really bendy shoulders. To the point that I have to be very careful about good form with overhead weight because they'll flex into positions that are basically untenable for supporting the weight. Used to have issues with hurting them due to this, but actually haven't really been sore at all (outside of normal exercise soreness) since I started doing Crossfit.

Chalk up one vote for getting off the machines and doing free weight exercises that develop supporting musculature to make flexibility functional.

As for that "loose" feeling? That's a bad feeling, imo. Normally a sign that the supporting musculature isn't warmed up. Normally a good sign that I could end up hurting myself.

One more data point is that I'm not a high stress guy. I'm pretty unflappable, so I just don't get the stress-related knots and such.
posted by bfranklin at 6:52 AM on September 15, 2009

Nope. In my gymnastics coaching days, we started every practice session with stretching as a warm up -- it was absolutely necessary for anyone to feel up to doing anything. Nowadays, I only get that loose feeling after exercising, after specific stretching time, or after soaking in a nice warm bath.
posted by Pufferish at 7:06 AM on September 15, 2009

I think it's more poor posture than whether one is naturally lax.
(on preview, what creasy boy said)

People who are hyperflexible are often more prone to injuries, such as dislocation. They may be so lax that their joints are very unstable, so they are often coping with pain from past injuries (especially to tendons & ligaments). I've always been very flexible, not so much overall now I'm in my late 30's as I used to be, but I'm much more flexible than my 15yo daughter. I can get down much lower than her in stupid competitions doing the splits, much to her annoyance.She can do freaky things with her thumbs, though.

I also have a tendancy to roll my ankles & tore a ligament in one of my big toes 5 years ago that still gives me trouble.

I work as a Remedial Massage Therapist, and some of the people I see with chronic pain issues are very hyperflexible, have injuries & terrible posture. This is something I note from personal observation, there are probably articles written on this subject in the journals.

I recommend Pilates. If you're lax, I'd recommend avoiding Yoga. Pilates is more about balancing the body & not just stretching out the tight bits, but also strenghtening the weak bits. Stength, Control, Stability.
posted by goshling at 8:34 AM on September 15, 2009

I can reach 10 inches past my toes, and I have chronic lower back pain.
posted by decathecting at 9:15 AM on September 15, 2009

My yoga teacher told me a long time ago that some people's bones were hung together loosely. Now that doesn't make any sense at all. However, I'm still, and always was, far more flexible than either DDs, even when they were little children. I can, even when I don't exercise, touch the palms of my hands to the floor, and, until the knee doc told me not to, do that sitting yoga pose with one foot behind my head without effort or pain. Of course, I also have a hip that goes out of joint for no reason at all and has to be wiggled back in since I was little. On the other hand, DDs can make tongue rolls and do the Spock thing with their fingers, but not me. And, btw, the only injury I've had, other than my knees which have always been bad, was a pulling my back while lifting something over my head into the attic and whirling around when the fire alarm went off (bug in it.) I have no lingering injuries or pain, flexible or not.
posted by x46 at 10:22 AM on September 15, 2009

posted by ignignokt at 10:38 AM on September 15, 2009

Tom Kurz talks about different types of flexibilty.

Yea I have his book, Stretching Scientifically.
posted by madh at 8:34 PM on September 15, 2009

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