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

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Contents -

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?

HOPEFUL BE­GIN­NINGS

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?

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