We DivaGals are always looking for new forms of exercise, but even we hesitated when he heard the name CONTORTURE. Luckily, we met Jonathan Nosan, the professional contortionist with more than 20 years of training and performance, who created the method.
CONTORTURE is designed to create conscious mobility to deepen your stretch through strength and breath. Really? Tell us more, Jonathan!
What inspired you to start this type of training?
I have always been drawn to extremes and the more esoteric fringesΓÇöwhether its academia or acrobatics. At U.C. Berkeley I studied Modern Japanese History and during a Fulbright to Kyoto researching Design of Sacred Space I saw contortionists in a circus blowing me away with their simplicity in form combined with extreme strength and flexibility. At 22 years old, and unable to touch my toes or do a handstand, a bell rang in inside me that it was time to challenge and push my body to then extent that IΓÇÖd been pushing my brain. I moved to London to train a year of circus and physical theater and then three years of contortion training with Mr. Lu Yi in San Francisco. After performing internationally for 20 years and teaching/coaching for 10 years, IΓÇÖm thrilled to be able to bring this safe method of training to anyone around the world looking to hit higher heights.
Tell us a little about the discipline.
CONTORTURE connects breath, body and brain to create a conscious mobility for maximum flexibility. I talk a lot about creating new little brains throughout the bodyΓÇöhand brains, toe brains, hip brains, ab brains and of course, brain brains. Each of these brain parts need to communicate with each other and work as a unit for the full body to be fully present in every move and exercise. CONTORTURE emphasizes small deep attentions to alignment and engagement to ultimately create massive changes. It’s strengthening and stretching at the same time; in CONTORTURE we are creating a strong connection, whether we are on our hands, feet or head.
Do you use any special instruments in CONTORTURE?
Of course! There is “The Stick,” a short dowel, and it’s the only apparatus required for checking oneΓÇÖs alignment and maintaining extensionΓÇªand of course for the occasional self flagellation, LOL!
How will CONTORTURE affect and change your body?
The constant interconnectedness which CONTORTURE demands rebalances the body. Between going upside down in headstands and handstands, and going backwards in hanging backbends and waterfalls, contorturists achieve a new understanding of how to be in your body, during training and beyond. A new confidence spawns as well, physically and mentally, in terms of what we thought we were capable of what more we can achieve.
You want specifics? YouΓÇÖll get rid of the ΓÇ£stuffΓÇ¥ in the front (tummy) and augment the ΓÇ£stuffΓÇ¥ in the back (booty); your abs will flatten and rip; and a lean/mean upper body created from oneΓÇÖs own body weight workout will emerge. And you might not trip as oftenΓÇªexcept for the occasional CONTORTURE high!
What’s one easy move for beginners to start with?
The ΓÇ£Contorture SquatΓÇ¥ is a great place to start.
Squatting is not only great for toning your legs ΓÇö itΓÇÖs actually one of the best ways to improve your flexibility. It fires up the hip flexors, which are tight for most people because they sit a lot — tight hip flexors make it hard to bend and touch your toes. Squatting is the target, or bullΓÇÖs eye of where to attack to get the hip flexors open. It will make everything from crossing your legs, tying your shoes and ultimately bending over backwards to catch your ankles feel better.
Ready to give it a try? Here’s how:
- Standing with feet slightly turned out, at a stance just a little wider than your hips, plant your ankles into the ground. While doing this, suck in your gut (as if a friend is about to punch you hard in the stomach) and ΓÇ£tuckΓÇ¥ your tailbone under.
- With this engaged upper body, bend the knees, shooting the knees out over the toes, and lower down as far as you can go staying connected and strong; breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- ┬áWhen youΓÇÖve reached Your Extreme, Drill your elbows directly into the spot where your calf meets your thigh, and make fists with your hands.
- Round your back, all while engaging your core, and then push with your shoulders to open your hip flexors.
- Return to standing without collapsing in the lower back, but instead by lengthening from your engaged core and tucked tailbone.
Work up to ten reps holding for five long easy breaths to build better mobility and balance.
What’s on the videos?
The Five Video Series takes the Contorturist from basics to pro, whether you’re just starting out or ready to hit the stage. Four demonstrators at different levels allow you to follow along while I lightheartedly and contorturously guide you through. Video 1 provides every angle of insight on alignment, breath control and connection, starting from the squat and finishing with the WaterfallΓÇögoing backwards down to the ground. Video 2 are the Inversions: Headstands, Handstands and Forearmstands, showing my drills and secrets from 20 years of working upside down. Video 3 The CONTORTURE Class: this is where it all gets very real. It’s an 85 minute start-to-finish class, exactly as you would do live with me; variations and modifications are provided for different levels, and its finishes off with the Freestyle to challenge you to work on a twisted balance or pose. Video 4 is Weighted Stretching: these are techniques I have developed for students to push themselves when working alone and without a trainer/coach using dumbbells, plates, bodybars and sawhorses/chairs to get to deeper/darker CONTORTURE places. And finally Video 5 Advanced CONTORTURE: Here I break down the “big tricks” from my performance piece and share the insights IΓÇÖve gained from decades of performingΓÇöwhere and when to transfer weight and breath, how to initiate movements, and training tips and drills to achieve moves like Backbend to Contortion Handstand and Mountain.
How do we get ours?
CONTORTURE is available now at contorture.org for download and streaming.
Thanks Jonathan. We’re ready to get “CONTORTURE”-d for real!