How Do You Open Your Upper Back? (Updated)
Bendy Diaries
by elastischool
4M ago
A lot of people think of upper back extension as mystical because the upper back isn’t made for bending backwards but for twisting. However, doing unnatural things is part and parcel of contortion, we just have to be strategic about *how* we use muscle engagement to achieve the impossible. In reality, upper back engagement is simple and involves two vital things: proper shoulder and neck engagement. There are a couple of concepts that are key. Firstly, your upper back and your shoulder blades are separate units and can work together or against each other. This means you can have a super flexib ..read more
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Bending Without Dying: How To Optimize Breathing In Contortion Training
Bendy Diaries
by elastischool
7M ago
Breathing: one of the *big* topics in contortion that I feel not many people talk about until they stop breathing, and then it does become an issue. Whenever I teach new students (regardless of how stiff or bendy they are), I often catch them holding their breath so much that they don’t have any stamina to stay in a pose. Obviously, we need oxygen, but how do we get it if we are in a deep shape? Generally, our instinct is to clench our jaw and tense our entire body whenever we are doing something difficult, and contortion training is one of the trickiest disciplines to work on as we have to re ..read more
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How Do I Engage My Core In Contortion?
Bendy Diaries
by elastischool
1y ago
So… I hear a lot of conflicting cues about what to do with your core in contortion. Very few people distinguish between deeper (transverse or TVA) engagement and superficial (rectus, external obliques) engagement. This leads to a lot of confusion in which people don’t understand how you can contract a muscle to extend the spine, as abs engagement is usually taught as using abs to pull things straight via tucking in. Abs in contortion is a complex topic but at the same time very simple, if we were to clarify terminology in a concise and simple way. In this blog, I will break down how the abs wo ..read more
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Contortion Q&A: Why Do My Shoulders Tingle In Bridge/ Full Cobra?
Bendy Diaries
by elastischool
2y ago
You’ve probably heard this yelled at in contortion class a lot: “Don’t Wing your shoulders!”. But is it always bad? The Serratus Anterior: also known as the “armpit muscle” or “the door hinge”. They help you externally (turn in) and internally (turn out) your shoulder actively. The Lats also “hug” your back and assist with upper/ mid back opening. They work together with the serratus anterior very often, but they’re the main heavy lifting muscle. As a general rule, we don’t want passive winging, which is what we call when the elbows are flared out and the armpits are turning to the side withou ..read more
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Neurodiversity and Contortion
Bendy Diaries
by elastischool
2y ago
I’ve noticed that there seems to be a big proportion of contortionists who also have co-morbid mental health conditions such as Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) and ADHD/ADD. Other mental health conditions- such as anxiety, eating disorders, a history of trauma- also seem to be more common. In general, neurodivergence seems to be over-represented in contortion populations. But what accounts for this? (source) In my opinion, this is partially because there is an established link between hypermobility disorders such as Joint Hypermobility Disorder and Ehler-Dahlos’s Syndrome and autism. Some stud ..read more
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The Complex Relationship Between Contortion and Hypermobility
Bendy Diaries
by elastischool
2y ago
The Myth of Natural Flexibility So, it has come to my attention recently that many people think that the main pre-requisite for becoming a contortionist or training contortion is having natural flexibility a.k.a being hypermobile. People are easily impressed by extreme flex, but they rarely consider the strength needed to control extreme ranges. They assume that we bend like this because it’s some innate genetic gift, delivered to us by the gods in the form of Joint hypermobility (JHS) or Ehlers-Dahlos Syndrome (EDS). Look at this test to access your own hypermobility score. (source) However ..read more
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Crookedness: How Do We Fix It?
Bendy Diaries
by elastischool
2y ago
We all have uneven sides. In a way, you could say that no one is naturally completely symmetrical. However, as contortionists, I find we’re more obsessed than most about having perfect symmetry. I think this is partly because any form imbalance is accentuated when you’re in a chest stand: you can clearly see if one side of your back or hip is bending /pushing down more than the other, and it’s quite unsightly! You can see in the top picture my right hip is popping up a lot more, this time because of a back (rather than hip) imbalance. My right side of back is less flexible than my left, so it ..read more
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The Importance of Neck Engagement
Bendy Diaries
by elastischool
2y ago
To be honest, I don’t think anyone really thinks of how they use their neck unless they’re a contortionist and even contortionists often struggle with how to breathe in deep bends. Just as the low core leads the lower extremity (hips & low back), the neck leads the upper back and everything that comes with it. If you’re not using your neck, you also won’t be able to use your upper back properly, and you will find breathing in contortion difficult. Not using your neck correctly leads to issues like fainting, not just in your chest stand, but even in your lunges or any upper back bend. It al ..read more
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7 Tips for Managing Fear When Doing Contortion Or Hand Balancing
Bendy Diaries
by elastischool
2y ago
Fear is something everyone experiences, whether it be fear of turning upside down in an inversion, dropping back to the floor, or jumping up on canes. Unless you are a kid (so your brain hasn’t developed relevant fear centers yet), fear can actually be healthy! I like to think of fear as an evolutionary protective mechanism to prevent you from doing stupid and dangerous things, so there is a place for it! However, you do not want to have it limit you and hinder your ability to progress. Personally, as I am learning to balance on my canes from a height of a meter, the fear is quite real and so ..read more
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Tips for Training Contortion As An Adult
Bendy Diaries
by elastischool
2y ago
I get quite a lot of people telling me that they are “too old” for contortion, when they are in fact only in their early 20s. I find this misconception quite common: people think that you need to have trained since you were 6 to do contortion professionally. My 2 year contortion progress: it wasn’t just physical improvement, but also gaining of strength, ease of entry, shorter warm ups and better stamina. I will say that, yes, there are some genetic components to becoming a professional contortionist. However, your ability to improve and reach a professional level depends on your investment of ..read more
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