The words yoga and flexibility go together like bread and butter! But, how much flexibility do we really need? And, how important is flexibility in a yoga practice?
When someone comes to a beginners’ yoga class, I always ask what they hope to gain from the practice. And, the answer almost always includes some reference to becoming more flexible.
At this point, of course, I nod and smile assuring them that yoga will certainly help them to become more flexible.
Now, before we go any further, we know that yoga has so many more profound benefits than increasing flexibility. We’ll get to that in the next blog post!
But, for now, let’s dive a little deeper into this obsession with becoming more flexible.
Why do we feel that flexibility is the key to our body woes?
And, how flexible do we really need to be?
In all honesty, for most of us, daily life doesn’t really require us to be able to bend, stretch and perform poses in the way we might in a yoga class.
I mean, when was the last time you slid into Lizard Pose while standing in line at the supermarket?
Yet, we might still desperately drive the heels towards the floor in Downward Facing Dog in a bid to do the pose ‘properly’. Sound stressful? That’s because it is!
In reality, it is much better to bend the knees generously allowing the spine to lengthen in a Standing Forward Fold thus creating space and a sense of ease in the body.
Real talk: you might never be able to touch your toes with perfectly straight legs. But, so what? Would it make your life happier if you could?
Flexibility is only one of the components of fitness:
- Cardiovascular endurance
- Muscular endurance
- Reaction time
When we talk about flexibility, we are really referring to the ability of the muscles to lengthen and move passively around a joint.
Some people are naturally flexible which is neither a good or bad thing. It just is what it is.
Despite our intent on becoming more flexible, there is no proof that flexibility alone has any benefit to either health or fitness.
So, why do we bother stretching? I’m glad you asked!
What’s the point?
Lifestyle factors such as sitting for long periods of time effect not only our muscles but also the connective tissues in our bodies.
Over a lifetime, these tissues become short and tight causing postural imbalances which can lead to aches, pains and other ailments such as difficulty breathing.
By way of an antidote, yoga gently opens up the body by moving through different planes of motion – twisting, forward folding, back bending and more.
Furthermore, in yin yoga we stretch passively with little effort. This allows the muscles to switch off so that the stretch (or, more accurately, the stress) transfers to the connective tissues.
Over time, this creates more freedom of movement around the joints and – you guessed it – greater flexibility!
Perhaps more importantly, these slow practices are deeply relaxing for the body and mind since they give the nervous system time to down-regulate.
Although yoga and flexibility are intrinsically linked, flexibility is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to feeling healthy in body and mind.
Try this Yin yoga class for legs to relieve tension in the lower body and to relax the nervous system.
I’d love to know how important flexibility is in your fitness routine / yoga practice? Let me know in the comments!
May you be happy and healthy!
Check out the on-demand library at Happy Yoga Wales for many more yoga classes and meditations.
PS Remember every body is different so if you have aches and pains that don’t go away the best thing to do is visit a medical professional.