We have all had days when we feel like each asana is a little more difficult than it was ever before. After such a yoga practice, we feel more stretched, relaxed and calm. Have you ever wondered why stretching and flexibility is critical for our proper physical and mental functioning?
I’m sure at some point during your yoga journey, you have heard someone complain about not liking yoga because they are not flexible. It is extremely important to share with any fellow yoga practitioner or enthusiast you may know, that flexibility is not a pre-requisite for yoga but a by-product. One doesn’t begin with flexibility but over a period of continued practice, attains it. Yoga combines stretching and relaxation, which lead to flexibility.
But why do we need to be flexible, you ask?
There are many benefits of being flexible. In this blog post we will look into some of these benefits.
1. Reduces risk of injury
A flexible body is much more prepared for sudden, unexpected movements and strain during intense workouts. There is scientific evidence that the incidence of injury decreases when people include flexibility training in their routines due to the enhanced ability to move unimpeded through a wider range of motion. Spending few minutes a day on flexibility training or yoga, increase your flexibility. This leads to increased circulation to the muscles and important organs. A 2009 study in the American Journal of Physiology showed that for people age 40 and over, flexibility in the body was accompanied by flexibility in the arteries, thus reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease and even death.
2. Improves everyday functions
A flexible body will always be able to perform daily functions with more ease, such as reaching, bending, or stooping during daily tasks. An increased range of motion also allows you to perform daily functions with less risk of injury.
3. Improves posture, balance and reduces back pain
Stiff muscles can often lead to incorrect posture. A tight muscle in one part of your body may result in overexertion and pulling on another part, changing the way one holds their body in its relaxed state and placing strain on those joints. Increased flexibility in the large muscles in the lower body can help reduce stress on the lower back and reduce chronic back pain.
4. Reduces stress in intense workouts & enhances athletic performance
A well-stretched muscle will easily achieve its full range of motion which helps us utilize the full potential of muscles. This improves athletic performance and ability to do intense workouts with less strain on the joints. So a golf swing will be more effortless if the hips and shoulders are flexible and released. A tennis serve will be more powerful if there is greater range of motion. A runner will have better control of their form and gate if the muscles are limber and stretched out.
5. Mind-body connection
Some times when we engage in intense workouts or activities, we find ourselves losing track of the mind-body connection. We may be going too fast physically while the breath is not synced to the body and so the mind too gets distracted. With a flexible body, one can retain greater motor control and ability to respond to your environment. This helps us to improve the connection with the body as well as to the environment, leading to a much more aware and present existence.
As I tell all my students, it is easy to over-stretch so always remember, stretching should never be painful. There should never be a shooting or stabbing pain while stretching. The focus should be on bringing the muscle to a point of slight tension. It is essential that you continue your breathing pattern throughout the stretch. A great stretch is when the breath is unaffected and synced with the body.
To help you get more balanced and flexible, we have two exciting workshops this month.
18th November: The first workshop will be an Iyenger yoga based workshop with focus on twisting poses, which help release the back. Using props, we will learn about correct alignment and increased range of motion.
For details click here.
25th November: The second workshop will focus on improving the mobility of the shoulders and hips, through restorative yoga and static stretches.
For details click here.
This article is written by our head teacher Priyanjali Das. With focus on anatomy and mindfulness, her AtréYoga classes are welcoming and free of judgment & restrain. To know when she takes classes, click here to view the schedule.