One year of Contortion training: My reflections and insights from Contortionist Axinia Nazari
Here’s the story of how it all began.
I once read somewhere that, “Feeling sad can prompt you to make choices that improve your life”, so during a difficult and emotional phase in my life, I was searching for a new activity that could boost my mood and confidence. I was looking for a new challenge in my life and a way to improve my flexibility, and contortion seemed like a great option. Following some research, I came across the Flying Dolls studio. Little did I know at the time that this would lead to two exciting new activities, contortion and pole dancing.
Let me start by describing my first class. Initially, I thought it would be similar to Yoga or Pilates, but it turned out to be quite different. My first contortion class was a mix of discomfort, shock, pain and enthusiasm. As I watched Axinia, my contortion trainer, demonstrate each exercise the only thoughts that were going through my head were “Am I supposed to do that?”, “Do you know how old I am?” and “I’m definitely breaking something today”. Although there were moments of discomfort and pain during the class, it had strangely become satisfying, and pushing my body through what I believed were its limits, shockingly made me realize that it’s capable of much more. These mixed feelings made me become infatuated with contortion and look forward to discovering how much more my body can do.
A year later I can't believe how much I gained from contortion. While there are many benefits of contortion, I can only speak from my own experience.
Physically I’ve become considerably more flexible and stronger, achieving exercises that once seemed impossible. Mentally, I've become more aware of my body, my stress levels have decreased, I'm feeling more confident and most importantly, I'm loving the process. I still feel soreness in parts of my body that I never even knew existed, something which is never going to stop, but each class still challenges me to push a bit further. It's an incredibly challenging and rewarding practice that tests the limits of the body and mind in a way that no other form of exercise can. After this year of being introduced to contortion, I feel that it’s only the beginning of an exciting journey of self-discovery.
Allow me to introduce you to Axinia Nazari, my contortion trainer, whose infectious personality will captivate you from the moment you meet her. Her warm-hearted smile, welcoming approach, and positive attitude are ingredients of a person you look forward to work out with. Don’t be fooled by her sweet looks because she will make you “hurt” from the moment the class begins. “That’s not your limit” is something you will definitely hear her say a lot and she is always right! Axinia's professionalism, experience, and extensive knowledge of contortion create an environment where you always feel safe and supported. She possesses the most important quality of a good trainer; the ability to push you a bit further, while not making you want to give up, and at the same time teaching you to understand and listen to your body.
As with any physical activity, it's important to approach contortion with caution and seek guidance from a qualified instructor, such as Axinia. I recently had the pleasure of finally having a long awaited and anticipated conversation with Axinia to find out more about herself, her points of view from a trainer’s perspective and her own experiences with contortion. I hope you enjoy our insightful conversation as much as I did!
How would you best describe contortion to someone that is unfamiliar with or new to the activity?
The best way to describe contortion is: when the mind and the body is connected, synchronized and with that harmony you work and bend beyond, exceeding your threshold through repetition and commitment. The very simple way however, to describe contortion would be, bending your body and creating shapes with it, but contortion is a lot more than what meets the eye.
How were you personally introduced to contortion and why did it appeal to you?
Truthfully, I watched my coach's performance on TV when I was very young, I still remember very vividly her red outfit, I then told my mom "Mom, I want to do what she does." Years passed the thought was still lingering in my head, I started digging online and eventually found her and contacted her. I didn't expect much, as she is very popular and the chances of her taking me on as a student seemed very slim but to my surprise, she agreed to see me and after our first meeting she agreed to coach me and teach me the tricks of contortion.
Who was your mentor during your journey?
What do you enjoy the most about teaching contortion? What are some of the challenges you face when teaching new students or even students in general?
Helping people overcome their ego! That is truly what I most love teaching. You can only connect with your body if you overcome your ego, that is the very first thing I like to teach and then comes the physical aspects of it, the bending, flexibility and learning contortion tricks. That's why my very first answer to your first question was about mental connection with one’s body.
I don't necessarily feel like I face challenges, I see them as opportunities for growth, for myself and the person I train. Perhaps I could say challenges in the process of growth. It would be working with limiting beliefs that so many people have nowadays and be a little less fearful about the goals they want to achieve, in contortion and in life in general. Like I said, contortion is a lot of mental work.
What do you believe are some of the most common challenges that your students face?
Limiting beliefs because somewhere, someone, somehow managed to convince them, they are not equipped for this. Can I also add, that a lot of emotional issues also resurface that have been bottled up and suppressed for over the years, including myself; I had my coach to navigate me through my journey, (she did mention that this is ought to happen) and now I wish to transmit that to my students. Contortion is a lifestyle and a philosophy, it is not just exercise.
What do you consider to be the ideal frequency for contortion training at the beginner, intermediate and advanced stages?
Becoming a contortionist takes time, dedication and commitment, and a lot of it! And willingness to work through your growing pain. For a beginner I would say no less than three hours a week and for advanced, no less than 5-7 hours weekly. It is not for the faint-hearted.
What are some of the potential injuries that can occur during contortion and how can they be avoided?
Just like any injury you can get with other sports and activities, it is no different than gym, dance cross fit etc. People can get injuries for 2 reasons: 1) not getting a proper warm up and 2) rushing into learning a trick that their body isn't ready for it.
Preparation and patience are two key elements for avoiding injuries.
Are there any limitations for a person to start contortion?
No! Unless there are certain serious physical limitations or health conditions. It is not recommended to attempt contortion without proper guidance and training from a qualified instructor, as improper technique could result in injury.
What are some of the most immediate benefits a new student might expect to see?
Mentally, self-esteem! Reversing the thought that they can’t do what they want or achieve certain goals not only in terms of flexibility but also general goals in life that have been collecting dust for over the years. Physically, it literally re-educates your spine, it straightens up all your tangled muscles, it helps with blood circulation and a lot of health-related challenges that we might face. I always say: some practice a day, keeps the doctor away!
"Contortion is Art, it is a lifestyle and a philosophy. I could expand on this a lot more, but I think this covers the scope of what the main benefits are."
How can someone reach you?
WhatsApp: +357 97744498