CAN YOU DO THE SPLITS?
Most of us haven’t done the splits since school, but a new book says anyone can do them. GH challenged super-stiff Andreina Cordani to try
My legs are shaking, sweat is dripping down my nose and – worst of all – I am wearing a crop top for the first time since the 1990s. I’m at a Fierce Grace class – it’s hot yoga that focuses on strength and flexibility, neither of which I have.
Before the class, extreme yoga wasn’t usually my thing. I’d never been sporty before – I couldn’t even touch my toes – and since having two children, I haven’t had time to exercise at all. At 44 years old, I felt old and creaky.
And then I heard about a book called Even The Stiffest People Can Do The Splits. It’s by a yoga instructor called Eiko, whose Youtube posts went viral in her native Japan. Four weeks, she says, and I will be able to do her loose definition of the splits – ie, sit with my legs wide apart and my elbows on the floor. All it takes is a few simple stretches a day. And by doing them, I won’t just be improving my flexibility, I’ll also improve circulation and strengthen my hips, which have always been weak. Could this be the challenge I need?
My husband takes ‘before’ photos, guffawing with laughter. I’m in agony and can barely get my legs apart. Eiko’s book is straightforward – three stretches a day. I work through it in about 15 minutes, feeling shaky but optimistic and empowered.
It helps that I have a firm goal. Unlike when I’m just trying to be more active, I never skip a day. I lie down and stretch with my one-year-old sitting on my head. I stretch at 10pm in front of Amazon Prime. I fit it in. I even buy a yoga mat.
By the end of the second week, my knees are a good 10cm further apart and I can actually touch my toes! I can picture myself doing my party trick, wiping the doubtful expression off the husband’s face. Ha!
A STRETCH TOO FAR?
And then suddenly, in week three, progress stops. My legs just don’t go any further apart. I scour the book for answers but it’s an odd little tome – there’s not much background information and most of the advice is woven into a strange short story about Japanese executives.
I need extra help, hence the crop top and hot yoga. I sweat and wobble through the classes and find the heat really does make you more flexible – if somewhat pink-faced. I start to feel amazing.
The tutor shows me how to protect myself from injury, but she also says there’s no way everyone can do the splits the way Eiko does – we’re all just built differently. She cautions me not to push too hard.
By now I’m doing yoga every day. When not at FG, I’m mainlining Youtube classes in addition to Eiko’s stretches. The family are now trained to leave me alone when they see the mat. When I’m not stressing about how low I can go, it’s a bit of a treat.
SPLITS QUEEN (ALMOST!)
There’s no sudden breakthrough – it comes gradually. One day my elbows brush the floor… the next day, they don’t… but the day after, they brush more closely. I’m grunting and trembling with the effort but, after eight weeks, I am (sort of) doing the splits! They’re not perfect, but I’m really in the yoga habit now. I will definitely keep going, and my splits experiment has made me realise the importance of doing something like this for yourself. If I can do this, who knows what else I can achieve?