We are going to talk about how you can tie yourself in knots. In fact, we are going to learn this trick.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you have occasionally thought how much you’d like to be able to sit on your own shoulders, then there is probably a contortionist’s spirit trapped within you and just waiting to bend its way out. To become a contortionist you’ll need dedication, patience and physical prowess.

Contortionists achieve their remarkable feats by hyperflexing or hyperextending their spines – it’s all about teaching the body to do something that it doesn’t naturally want to do. Your body will be able to get into poses that constantly surprise you but be prepared for some to be beyond you. And don’t forget to enjoy it – contortion is a great way of relieving stress. You can learn the skills at any age, but it’s generally accepted that the younger you are, the easier it will be.

Start slowly, getting into a routine of daily stretches to build a level of flexibility and suppleness into your body. Yoga is also beneficial. It’s worth preparing yourself for a good month before trying anything serious, and once you start training in earnest, you should still do at least 15 minutes of warm-up before trying anything serious. Take extra care about what you consume. Lots of fruit and veg is great but eat meat in moderation, and make sure it’s lean – you’ll want to keep your body fat at a safe minimum. Drink lots of water, but don’t eat anything in the hour or two before a session.

Give yourself plenty of space and make sure your training area is cool and airy. To get to a professional standard, expect to do three hours of training per day, ideally over three sessions (morning, afternoon and evening). Try not to miss any sessions – some say that even a day off can set your progress back by a week. Work with a partner. Not only is it more fun but it is also safer – they can check that you are doing particular exercises in the right way, spotting, for instance, whether you’re using your whole spine or putting all the strain on a few vertebrae.

Contortionists generally come in two flavours, evocatively known as frontbenders and backbenders, but try to develop a full and varied act: frontbenders often incorporate backbending exercises and vice versa. You might also include some splits and oversplits (a split of more than 180 degrees). Whatever you do, don’t endanger yourself – contortionism is quite literally about stretching yourself to the limit, but don’t push yourself so far that you do yourself a mischief.