“I want to do yoga, but I am just not flexible enough”
If I had a peso for every time I have heard this statement, I would no longer need to teach yoga for a living! I am here to tell you, once and for all, that a less than desirable range of flexibility is exactly why you should give yoga a try.
I’ll let you in on a little secret of mine… I am not a naturally flexible person. My anatomy, relentless increase in age, and muscle make-up all contribute to my perceived lack of flexibility. Every bit of flexibility that I do have is 100% earned with a regular yoga practice. So before you sigh in dismay at your limited range of motion, T-Rex arm span, or tight hammies, here are a few things you should know. Flexibility is related to a few important factors; age, lifestyle, genetics, and muscle tension. Yoga can help.
Age and the Process of Aging
As we grow older we start to notice a little more feedback when bending over or performing basic tasks. This is a natural phenomenon and you are not alone. Our joints and tendons get cranky, but there’s hope. By integrating more movement and exercise into our daily lives (especially as signs of aging increase!), we will begin to combat the very normal effects of aging. The secret to success is that we have to keep at it!
Lifestyle: Move It or Lose It
Lifestyle habits and choices that keep you seated or sedentary will diminish your flexibility. This is as inevitable as death and taxes (if you’ll pardon the expression). When our daily lifestyles incorporate healthy movements and exercise, we can appease those cranky joints and muscles. A regular, well balanced exercise regime will focus on both strength and flexiblity. On the other side of the spectrum, those who participate in activities with intense repetitive motion (think: cycling, swimming, or weightlifting) are at a higher risk of developing tightness in their muscles and joints, and can benefit from more flexibility training. Numerous studies have concluded that yoga is the best form of exercise to improve flexibility and strength.
Genetics: I Am What I Am
We are simply dealt the genetic cards that we have. While I might be able to hold a pushup for an astonishing length of time, I will never be able to bend my way into some of the poses that my contemporaries do. That’s just life and it shouldn’t discourage us from doing something enjoyable! In yoga, we focus only on what our own bodies are doing, not our neighbors. My forward fold will look wildly different than another person’s, but we are BOTH getting all of the same benefits available from that pose. We are both growing and improving our flexibility in our own way. I am who I am, and that’s just fine with me!
Muscle Tension: What is a Stretch?
The act of stretching is to place a part of the body in a position to reduce muscle tension. We all experience muscle tension in a variety of ways. When we stretch, we are not actually lengthening our muscles (we are not magically generating new body mass)! Our cells are simply not contracting. Over time with a regular yoga practice we will observe our muscles releasing and responding more beneficially than when we started. It is important to understand that yoga is so much more than stretching, it is a mental state and a way of understanding our own physique and ability. Yoga teaches us how to observe and progress slowly and safely in accordance with our own unique body.
“I want to do yoga because I am not flexible”
So the next time you start to think that your flexibility will prevent you from enjoying the practice of yoga – think again. Not only will yoga help you to make improvements in your flexibility and range of motion, it will help you see your body in a new and loving light.