Can contortion-ism be learned?

I think most people can stretch enough to be able to do the splits, back bends, etc. but what about the extremes? Is it possible for someone who is reasonable athletic and flexible to become a contortionist?
This lady - Irina Kazakova (YouTube) is the most flexible I’ve seen. She’s like rubber. :eek:

As I understand it, the more extreme contortionists have a genetic mutation that makes them much more flexible than normal, so no. On the other hand, they can suffer from various medical problems, so I wouldn’t be jealous.

It also helps if you start training from a very young age.

And extreme flexibility isn’t necessarily a good thing. I know somebody who broke her back doing a backbend–the curve got so tight that it ended up putting too much stress on one vertebra, which then gave way.

Most people? I seriously doubt it.

There is apparently a genetic mutation I glimpsed in a dentistry text book; no collar bones so there’s the ability to get your hands from behind you to in front of you with your wrists tied. But they have a LOT of teeth…can’t remember and google-fu fails me.

The mutation I was speaking of is an alteration to the body’s collagen, which serves as it’s connective tissue. As I recall, there are several varities in the body with different structural qualities; some people are born with more of the “looser” varients in places where they wouldn’t be. At the extreme you end up with people who can casually dislocate joints or easily stretch and tear skin. Here’s an article that mentions some of this.

Bolding mine.

I’m not a contortionist and I doubt I have any of those genetic disorders there, but I am a lot more flexible than the average Joe/Jane. I’m double jointed in a lot of my joints, my knees and elbows hyper-extend and my hip and shoulder sockets are very loose so I can partially dislocate them without any problem.

It sucks now! Sure, it was (hell, it is) fun grossing people out with doing the splits without stretching (I haven’t taken ballet in over a decade) or having them put a hand on my shoulder and feel the arm ‘fall out’ of the socket. :smiley: Or bending the very tips of my fingers back almost 90 degrees, or pulling my thumb to be on the top of my hand, etc etc. But my joints hurt more and more now. I had to go to physical therapy for my hips and shoulders to get strengthening exercises. The joints are loose and the ligaments are all stretched out. I’m only 25 but I’ve had days I look like I’m Dr. House walking around without his cane (if I slack and don’t do my strength training).

Is there any proof for that “most people can stretch enough to do the splits” statement? Because I’m still in the dark as to whether it’s actually possible to learn them at a later age (say, 25), and I’d like to learn (I’ve never been able to). I don’t want to hijack the thread, but it doesn’t seem relevant enough for its own thread :o

I’m going to tentatively say no. I’m somewhat contortionist-esque (queen of the funky party trick) and it’s not something that I ever TRIED to do - it just is. When I took gymnastics the other girls were flexable in an athletic way that you describe, but I was the only one with real freak-out potential.

DOH! Too slow:

ETA: Just for the sake of accuracy - my particular brand of flexability can be ENHANCED - meaning the more I stretch, the freakier I become; however, even cold and stiff after not trying for months at a time I can put my feet behind my head, dislocate my collar bones, twist my arms into a pretzel behind my back, etc.

No, that stuff is way harder than you think if you aren’t practically there genetically speaking. I took gymnastics from 2nd through 5th grade and it was the only sport I was good at around that age. I was the only male in the history of the gym to get promoted to the girl’s advanced class which was the highest honor there. I could do handsprings, back handsprings, trampoline tricks, and every floor maneuver except for the splits and a graceful back bend. I trained to do the splits every night for months in from the TV and it never happened. I could never do true back-bends either even though I was as skinny as a rail and as flexible as a male could be expected to be in general. OTOH, I have a double-jointed thumb that never took any effort at all.

You can’t train your way to everything. People’s bodies are slightly different and there is no way for anyone to choose to push into the top 5th% on most things just through determination.