When you think of contortionists, images of circus performers (perhaps a la Cirque du Soleil) likely come to mind. The bending, twisting, and stretching seem impossible — and never fail to mesmerize.
Professional contortionist Jonathan Nosan has made these amazing maneuvers his livelihood. While studying the design of sacred space as a PhD student in Japan, he stumbled upon a Tokyo circus and was mesmerized by the contortionists. “It blew me away and I knew that this needed to be the next 20 years of my life,” Jonathan tells Yahoo Health. From there, he moved to London to train at a circus school before heading to the Circus Centre in San Francisco, where he studied for three years. “By the end of that time I could touch toes forwards and backwards, when I used to not be able to touch my toes,” Jonathan says.
Now able to lie on his stomach and bring his toes by his ears, Jonathan has taken his expertise and created a workout class called ”Contorture“ to help the rest of us become real-life Stretch Armstrongs. "I saw a need to put out a safe, methodical way to train deep flexibility from a contortionist’s perspective,” Jonathan explains. “The program creates a strong, supple spine and a balanced body connecting movement through breath.”
For example, with a lunge, a person would typically throw the front foot forward and try to get the groin to the ground, regardless of the position of the hips. In Contorture, you would do the lunge, but place the rod in front of the hips to make sure they’re square. Then you’d place it behind your spine to make sure it was straight and there’s no gap in the lower back, meaning your core is engaged. “It’s like using a level when you’re building,” he explains. “We want your body to be level and aligned to create the strength and connection that will help you explore deeper layers of flexibility.”
While you may not be able to throw your feet behind your head after one class, Jonathan says you will be able to get an inch further in a particular stretch. “You’ll walk away with a new understanding [of] how to carry your body and conquer your fear of being able to bend further,” Jonathan says. And “in five to six classes, you’ll start to feel and notice your flexibility significantly improving along with your strength and alignment in everyday life.” It could take longer — up to a year — to learn how to do more advanced moves, like a full handstand, depending on your starting point.
So maybe you don’t have the desire to do a crazy backbend, but you do wish you were able to touch your toes. Jonathan breaks down five ways anyone can become a little more flexible.
Click here to find out the 5 ways to become more flexible today!