The biggest myth about Yoga is that, Yoga is for flexible people and yoga increases flexibilty. But, this is half information which is misleading and often an invitation to injuries. More often than not, we aspire a super-flexible body. Thus, we stretch beyond limits which leads to injuries.
Thus, Dear yogis and aspiring yogis, please read this carefully. As Flexibility is just one aspect of yoga. And stretching muscles is just one aspect of flexibility.
Things to know about Flexibility
1) Improve your Mobility
Cannot touch your toes, it might not be because of tight hamstrings; It might be because of lack of hip mobility. Mobility refers to the ability to move through a joint. Whereas flexibility refers to a connective tissue’s ability to temporarily elongate. Thus, there are asanas and movements that help in improving arm/hip/spine mobility.
2) Flexibility and Nervous system
The nervous system interacts with fascia and muscle. There are 10 times more nerve endings in our fascia than our muscles.These nerves sense the changes in the body’s tissues and it makes the body react either by increasing or decreasing the muscle tone.
When the stress is chronic, the immune system can malfunction and we may become chronically inflamed. As, inflammation can cause our tissues to swell up due to the body releasing water in between our tissues.
Also, when we are tensed, our muscles tense up too! Thus, the best stretches happen when we are relaxed and the muscles are relaxed.
3) Emotional and Psychological Limits
The body does not function alone. It is connected to our mind, emotions and breath. Our stressed shoulders, tight adductors-hips are an indication of what going on in our mind. Postures that were possible earlier might now be difficult. On the other hand, as we learn the art of surrendering, letting go; we find that our body is more compliable!
4) Too much stretching causes injuries
This often happens to flexible people. They are flexible, but they don’t know where to stop. The body is intutive, when your muscles get too tight, it’s an indication to stop. The valuable part of our yoga practice is simply listening to our bodies. So, splits are not a trophy, it’s a practice. Go easy!
5) What is stopping you: Tension or Compression
Tension happens when the body’s tissues cannot lengthen anymore. This tightness can be found in fascia, tendons, joint capsules and even in the skin. How do you recognize tension? It can be felt in the opposite side of the movement. For example: in a forward bend, you will feel the tension in the back of the legs.If it’s tension that limits your range of movement, you can improve with practice.
Compression is when one body part comes in contact with another body part. Thus, meaning that further movement is no longer possible. Example, when the flesh of the stomach hits the thighs, no more movement is possible.How do you recognize compression? Compression is felt in the direction of the movement. Here, we need to accept that certain asanas are not made for us!
6) Fascia and Static stretches
Connective tissues are everywhere! Fascia is not very elastic and they are vulnerable to injuries. Thus, static stretches (long-time stretches, think 15-20 minutes) help in flexibility. Deep breathing and static stretching activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for loosening up the fascia.
7) Strength and Endurance
Flexibility can be futile if there is no strength and endurance. The inability to hold an asana does not reap the whole benefits. It’s good to get a photo in the asana. But the joy of holding an asana and the energy balance, is lost due to lack of strength.
The next time you are on your mat, remember stretching is not flexibility. It’s about understanding your bone structure, fascia and realizing that your nervous system and experience all come into play.
Yoga helps in flexibility, but in truth it is a process of awareness, reprogramming, releasing and surrendering!
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