Are splits and Pole sports safe?

Question

A student of mine asked about the splits and also back flexibility. She is interested in doing Pole sports and wants to know if teaching her body to do those things is harmful.

Answers

Nicole DeAvilla
Marin County, California

Without knowing your student and her body, I cannot say whether splits or greater back flexibility is appropriate for you. I can, however, give you some tips to help you evaluate for yourself.

The potential ability to do the splits fully is determined by the shape of your femur (leg bone), pelvis and the hip joint—where the femur and pelvis connect. Just as that shape may make it impossible for some people to practice lotus posture, while others may practice it with ease, so it goes with many of the other extreme positions such as the splits.

Here are a few rules of thumb:

  • If you feel the stretch in the muscles it is probably safe to keep stretching,
  • If you are feeling sensation in any of your joints (this could include pain, discomfort or simply a gentle awareness of the stretch in the joint), then it is considered not safe to continue.
  • If the sensation is in what I call the “grey area”—not sure if it is the end of the muscle or in the joint—then be safe by backing off as though it is affecting the joint.

As for back flexibility, we all need to keep our backs strong and flexible. To keep yourself safe and healthy, I recommend you find a qualified yoga teacher or yoga therapist who can analyze your points of alignment, back bend arch, safe forward bending mechanics etc. In the meantime keep these tips in mind:

  • Back movements should never cause these sensations: sharp, tingling, numbness, or pressure (whether mild, moderate or severe).
  • Back movements should not cause, other than occasional simple sore muscles sensations from overdoing, the following: Pain, tingling, numbness or pressure 1 hour to 48 hours after you practice. (Sometimes it takes this long before one is aware of the full affect on the body from practicing.)

I hope this helps.

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