I wish I could meet your client so I could take her through an assessment to learn all the places where she might have over active and tight muscles which restrict her from being able to touch her toes. Since I can’t do that I will base my answer on what you have told us. I would start by teaching your client to perform self myofascial release using a foam roller on her calves, hamstrings, IT band, and lats. Slowly roll each muscle group over the foam roller to search for the most tender and maybe painful spot. Once the spot is found, hold on that spot for at least 30 seconds. This allows the muscle to relax and release the trigger points. Next, perform a static stretch for the calves, hamstrings, IT band, and lats. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. Have your client do this 4-7 days per week. If your client can do this routine consistently she will see gradual improvements in her flexibility.
Hi Kate – this article will help you:
I work on this all the time. It is one of the things that many people come into yoga looking for.
Obviously the first thing, which I would imagine you have already done as this is an existing client, is to make sure there are no underlying issues that would affect how stretching can be done. There are structural conditions, injuries, and so on, that can affect how one would proceed.
I will give you a few general suggestions that come from my experience, and may possibly help.
Clearly you want to stretch, but you have to consider what I call compensations.
Also you need to think of touching the toes, not as a goal, but as a tool.
This is what I mean. When I lean over in a forward bend part of what brings me forward is a tilt at the hips that stretches along the line of stretch through the calf and the thigh. But if you have someone who is tight there once that has moved as much as it can, if they are thinking… the goal is the hands on the floor…. they will round the back to get there. So instead tell them not to worry about the hands on the floor, but rather think about bringing the navel to the thigh. If you teach them cat to cow first you can let them understand about keeping a natural lumbar curve through the bend, rather than creating a compensation by rounding the back. Put a few blocks under their hands, or have them do a half bend and put the hands on a wall.
The other thing to do is to do leg stretches where the back is immobilized (laying on the floor and lifting the leg for example). Be wary of seated forward bends as they put more stress on the spine. I do them a lot, but I’ve done them for decades, and I tend to do them with a class only late in the class when warmed up, and with modifications where needed.
Cat and cow, and in particular the 6 movements of the spine are great ways to open the spine. I really think it is important to balance the forward and backward movements with the twists and side bends…. assuming that person doesn’t have a medical reason not to do one of those things.
Also, remember to be cautious with the word ‘best’…. people’s bodies and backgrounds differ widely, and what they need day to day varies. It is generally better to work from where they are when they present, and to modify as needed.
I am going to give you links to a couple of my blogs, in case you have interest…. one is on the ‘leg series’, a very easy set of warm up movements, with drawings. The drawings look a bit like Goya drew them, but that is just my computer incapacity. I will also give you one I did on yoga for runners, which covers some of this territory.
Just remember you want hip openers as well as spinal work, as well as the leg portion of forward bends.
There is a lot to gaining ROM, especially in the low back, hamstrings, and hips. You can do a lot of stretching, but if you are not moving through a good ROM regularly, there will be little progress. If a person spends most of their time in shortened positions for any muscle group, that muscle length and flexibility will be reduced. I have worked with clients on ROM for over 35 years. I use a demonstration to make my point on ROM being determined by activity as much as stretching. I have clients reach as far as they comfortably can in a hamstring stretch. We note the distance reached. Then I have them do a series of movements for the entire body. After that they try the stretch again. While there are a small number of people that will still do poorly, the vast majority show improvement after only 5 minutes of good ROM exercises. I explain that stretching is also very important, especially at the end of a workout or doing physical work. But moving with the intent of improving ROM throughout the day is just as important. If you sit at a desk all day, then exercise once or twice a week and stretch, you won’t make much change in your ROM. But if you take breaks to do some ROM exercises for 2 minutes three or four times a day, you can see and feel a difference.
I teach CECs on this subject and more. Check out my website sometime, www.hawaiifitnessacademy.com . Feel free to contact me with questions.
All good answers. In addition, two things to keep in mind: 1) to increase range of motion (ROM) it’s important to have the milieu of the target muscle(s) warmed up, and, 2) stretch to the point of tension, not pain. Most programs can be effective. There are certainly a wide variety. I know of no research that suggests that one method is more effective than another. Just do it.