How Do Contortionists Work?

by:   |   May 21 2014

veruskha contortion

Like gravity and Jen Selter’s ass, there are some scientific phenomenon I just don’t fully understand. I always figured that contortionists became the bendy, slightly disgusting performers they are because of some unexplained genetic miracle. They lucky enough to be born with differently shaped bones than the rest of us, andpoof!they started booking circus work.

contort typing

But apparently anyone can become a contortionist, as long as they’ve got the patience, stamina, and extremely weird drive to do so. According to Science (the Internet), contortionists can actually “teach” their bodies to have advanced stretching capabilities over time, the same way I’ve spent most of my life becoming progressively more awesome. Some of it is genetic, and the rest is just hours of daily training.

Contortion as a performance has been around since the beginning of civilization—there are paintings and sculptures from ancient Greece that depict contortionists doing tricks for crowds. Folklore says that the first contortionists in ancient Rome were Yogi beggars who got roped into performing for crowds. 


Some standard training stretches

Watching an accomplished contortionist is a bit like watching those zit-popping videos on YouTubeyou can’t hit pause, but you’re definitely wincing in pain throughout. One of the best examples I’ve seen is this video from a 2010 gymnastic championship in Poland, in which some rubber women perform a gorgeous, borderline-unbelievable floor routine:

In my next life, I’m coming back as a teenage Polish gymnast.

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