Book Review: Even the Stiffest People Can Do the Splits

Cover Image

Eiko goes by one name. She’s a freethinking yoga teacher who works in Osaka, Japan, and she just published this English-language book through Rodale.

Eiko’s premise
Performing specific stretches daily for a few minutes, will get most people–even the stiffest, least flexible–doing the splits in four weeks.

What she means by “splits”
Eiko, pretty reasonably, defines the splits to mean a person will be able to go from a sitting position on the ground to:
-straddling their legs out wide and straight
-touching their elbows to the floor in front of them
-and eventually touching their chest and arms to the floor as well.
(She’s doing it on the book cover above.)

Is this you? Get your stretch on Osaka-style.

Why you would want to do this
So many surprising reasons!

Postural
-correct your bowlegs or knock-knees
-improve your spinal alignment
-get a longer stride

Physical
-better circulation (warmer hands and feet)
-reduced back pain
-reduced knee pain
-get rid of leg swelling
-Postpartum women may be especially interested in her point that a lack of hip and thigh flexibility contributes to belly pooching. Is it true? Yes!

  • Tight muscles in the lower core get that way from being overworked.
  • Lengthening them out means they can operate effectively.
  • They can now pull correctly on important ab muscles, engaging them in work.
  • These newly engaged sheets of muscle crossing the belly will get stronger, making your belly smoother and leaner looking.
  • Approaching a pooched belly from a postural perspective can also improve the problem.

Motivational
-Achieving the small goal of doing the splits will give you the success needed to attack your next goals. (In the book, everyone’s all, “I can do the splits now! Let’s make that sales target!)

My take
Seeing a real improvement in your flexibility is highly motivating. You can start to see that your body is really not broken. It’s fixable.

Safe and beneficial for most
Flexibility is an underdeveloped and overlooked skill for many people, including very fit people. Her plan is easy to learn, and the book explains it very simply, with large and clear illustrations. Because it’s bite-size, and doesn’t require a gym, special clothing, or any equipment besides a towel, it’s accessible and easy to do.

Supported by research
The benefits she cites are backed up by research, which she lists in a bibliography. Although I found the sources to be mixed in scientific quality–she draws from the reputable European Journal of Applied Physiology, but also general-readership articles in Australia’s Sunday Tasmanian–the findings cited are not controversial. Flexibility is an important part of being healthy and fit, and this stretching program is effective.

An enjoyably strange book
If you’re an American, you’ll probably think, hmm, this is an unusual setup for a book. The first half is a very straightforward, impossible-to-misunderstand set of pictorial instructions for the various stretches, including how frequently to do them, what modifications are okay, and what modifications would make the stretch ineffective.

Image result for cubicle japan
Oh, sadly inflexible office workers of Japan! Eiko can bring joy to your cubicles.

The second half of the book is a business-book-style tale of three eerily dedicated Japanese office workers and the amazing impact that Eiko’s stretching program has on their pitiful non-stretching lives. My favorite part was when the worker characters actually met the Eiko character. The real Eiko, apparently concerned that readers may view her YouTube video and find her figure questionable, assures us: “To [the workers meeting her for the first time], Eiko looked even slimmer than she did in her popular video.”

The story offered a different way to take in the information presented in the first half of the book, and if you purchase the book, its presence will probably keep you from grumbling that you spent $19 on the equivalent of a large-format article from a health magazine. But the Arlington library system has the book for you to borrow!

Cautions
If you have a misaligned pelvis, get your doctor’s okay before doing these stretches. Same with ongoing back, knee, or hip pain: get your doctor to make sure your pain isn’t caused by something that stretching is not compatible with healing. And, of course, like all fitness regimens, if you’ve been inactive, consult a physician before beginning the program.

Overall, Eiko’s program is easy to learn and implement, and if you follow her four-week program, you will likely reap the promised benefits.

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