Flexibility 101 with Marta Baley
Updated: May 2
Everything you wanted to know about Flexibility and Contortion training with Marta Baley!
How should I stretch? When? And WHY?
We sat with Marta, a professional contortionist and flexibility trainer, to learn her secrets for efficient and rewarding flexibility training, answering all of your most commonly asked questions -
How often should I stretch?
I recommend 3-4 times a week for best results, but even 1-2 a week is better than nothing ;) Light stretches you can do additionally everyday.
How long will it take me to get my splits?
Oh, we all want to know! How long it will take to get a full split depends greatly on your starting point, training frequency and type of the body. In general, the more often you stretch the faster and easier you will get there. Some Bodies tend to be more tense or loose than others and may take longer or less time. But most importantly, regardless of your starting point and body type - with consistent practice everyone can get the split!
,,Our body is not a machine, it is far better!''
What is the best way to avoid injury while stretching?
Many people get injured while training flexibility because they train without full awareness and may push behind their limits. Remember to warm up properly, practice consciously and be aware of a goal in mind (what is the focus of your training?). Sometimes we want to ‘push’ further but the body is not ready - it is important to always listen to the body and take a step back when necessary. Be aware when the body is ready to push and when it is too much. With practice we also learn to better understand the needs of the body in every specific stretch. On top of that, you also want to make sure you eat well, hydrate sufficiently and get enough sleep which is crucial for proper recovery and healthy training.
Should I stretch an injured muscle?
You should not. Stretching an injured muscle might make it worse. If you have an injury go to a doctor or physiotherapist to get professional advice.
How important is breathing while stretching?
Breathing is super important while stretching (and for everything in life!). The breathing is going to help you to go deeper in the position and to develop more awareness in your practice. When you stretch try to breathe fully in, and when you breathe out push a bit further in your stretch. The breath provides oxygen for the muscles, soothes the nervous system and helps to become more aware of what you are doing (and thus to avoid injuries and achieve better and faster results).
What kind of methods do you use for teaching flexibility?
I am 39 y/o and I started to work with my body when I was 3. During those many years I have gained experience in rhythmic gymnastics (I was a Spanish champion), ballet, tai-chi, yoga, circus, meditation and more. I use all those disciplines to add different layers to the classes I teach. I use elements from Ballet as well as gymnastics and with the mindset of yoga and meditation, which together create a well rounded and efficient session. Working with your mind rather than just with your body is greatly going to transform the quality of your training, your achievements and your well-being through and after the training.
Is there such a thing as overstretch and how do I avoid it?
Sometimes we cross the limit and overstretch (which often leads to injury!). To avoid overstretching we need to be patient and disciplined in our practice. Beware if you are listening to your body or your ego - give your body time to reach new limits and always work with baby steps, instead of forcing a position your body is not yet ready for. Having a qualified and responsible teacher is going to help you to train both safely and wisely. Also, remember to rest enough - give yourself at least 1-2 days of either only light stretching or full rest.
In one class I feel really flexible, then the next week I feel more stiff and less flexible. Am I doing something wrong?
Our body is not a machine, it is far better ;) It’s perfectly normal to feel stiff one day and bendy the other. This is all part of the curve of learning and your progress. How flexible we are on a specific day depends on how much we slept, how much stress we have, (for women) where you are in your cycle, etc. It is important not to get frustrated, meet yourself wherever you are and keep up your training with passion and consistency. Some people may get results faster than others, so try not to compare and focus on your own journey.
How is stretching going to help me with my pole/aerial/dance training?
Stretching is useful for all sports - in every sport we contract and exhaust different muscle groups. It is then very important that we stretch and release those contracted muscles both BEFORE and AFTER our training. If we don’t stretch enough the body gets out of balance and sooner or later, we will meet injuries. Moreover, for pole dance and aerial arts deeper stretching is going to allow us to go into more advanced positions, have better lines and agility. Training flexibility will also help you develop more awareness in your body, which in turn means better coordination and control in your movement.
A bit about Marta:
Marta is a professional multi-disciplinary circus artist, contortionist and flexibility trainer.
She started her professional career in 1994, being a national champion really young in rhythmic gymnastics . After competing she discovered the dance world, and graduated in the National Dance Conservatory as a Ballet teacher. She has been a professional dancer for almost 10 years working on stage, tv, cinema and musicals. Later in her career, she embraced the circus world, where she specialized in duo hand to hand, aerial duo, solo silk and hoop, pole and contortion. She has worked in several well-known companies around the world such as Cavalia, Friedrichstadt-Palast, Cirque du Soleil, Franco Dragone, Les Farfadais, Celebrity, Norwegian and Princess cruises. Marta loves to combine her artistic career with teaching classes, helping her students improve and achieve their goals.
If you want to learn more about how YOU can become more flexible, join her weekly online classes at Pole Flow Berlin:
Tuesday 12:15-13:15 Middle Splits
Wednesday 10:45-11:45 Backbends
Wednesday 20:30-21:30 Side Splits
Friday 12:15-13:15 Middle Splits
Click here to the classes Book Online
For more flexibility classes check our full online schedule