The Contortionist's Handbook recommends that beginners start stretching with yoga, practicing regularly in order to improve strength and flexibility. Although individual practice times are highly variable, the handbook provides a daily goal of three hours per day, broken up as schedules permit. From there, beginners can progress into front-bend and back-bend exercises along with hip-flexes and splits. It is critical to warm up and stretch before practicing.
The Contortionist's Handbook recommends 10 to 25 repeats per exercise regardless of age or skill level; and, it suggest to pay close attention to the limits of the body. Overstretching can lead to injury and delay overall progress. The handbook also recommends increasing flexibility with the 1-2-3-4-5 method, stretching forward slightly with each count until the muscle is strained, then relaxing to a more comfortable position. As with any form of exercise, consistency is the key to success.
The handbook suggests enlisting an assistant to help keep the body and legs in position, holding a stretch for at least 30 seconds before releasing. Assisted stretches are common with athletes, dancers and gymnasts who have coaches working with them to improve their flexibility. Always balance a front-bend stretch with the corresponding back-bend stretch, and vice versa, to strengthen and lengthen the muscles around the spine.