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[tps_title]Don’t Fear Being Inflexible In Yoga Class[/tps_title]
Let me set the scene: You walk into a room and you see people touching their toes with ease, coming into the splits and doing downward facing dogs like its really a resting pose.
Immediately, regret sets in- you think, why did I decide to try yoga?
And then comes the fear, I’m not flexible enough to do yoga!
Let me tell you, the most common thing I heard from new yoga students is:
I can’t do yoga because I am not flexible enough.
But here’s the truth: everyone that can breathe can do yoga.
Sometimes, being less flexible is actually a good thing. Most often, people who are not as flexible are actually a lot stronger. Their strength helps support the lengthening of their muscles while stretching. The support of strong muscular action in our yoga poses is how we stay protected from injury. On the contrary, many people who come to yoga with hyper-mobility have to learn how to support their flexibility with strength. Believe it or not, gaining strength is often times just as difficult as gaining flexibility.
Tips for gaining flexibility:
Our breath supplies vital oxygen to cells in our body, required to help lengthen our muscles and actually pave new pathways in our nervous system. Our nervous system then sends messages to our brain to let us stretch deeper and try new things.
2) Don’t compare yourself to others in the room
Let your yoga be your yoga. It’s cooler to be you, anyway.
3) Celebrate the tiny steps of your progress
We’re talking centimeters and longer breaths here, people!
4) Acknowledge your inflexibility as an opportunity to grow
In the Yoga Sutras 2.33, we see a practice known as cultivating the opposite or shifting your negative to positive. “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana.”
*In this case, we can see that inflexibility or strength can actually be an asset to cultivating flexibility without injury.
5) Practice yoga to gain flexibility
You have to practice yoga for it to actually work!
As K. Pattabhi Jois said, “Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.”
Here are some poses to help increase your range of flexibility safely and effectively:
What you’ll need: A yoga mat, wall and a strap
Supta Padangustasana (Supine Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose)
Lie on your back with the soles of your feet against the wall, legs straight. Place your feet hip distance apart and parallel. Draw your right knee towards your chest and take your strap around the ball of your right foot. Stretch your leg up towards the ceiling. It is okay to keep your knee slightly bent or bring the leg forward towards the wall. Keep pressing your left foot into the wall and pressing your left thigh down toward the ground. Try your best to keep your body in a neutral position so one side of your body doesn’t feel higher than the other. Take your right thumb to your right hip crease and lengthen the right side of your body, so it’s equal to the left side of your body. Now, take both hands on the strap and breathe here. Feel the shoulders and the head relax into the ground. Stay for 5-10 breaths. Now, take the strap into the right hand only and open your right leg from deep within your hip socket out to the right. As you do this, feel your left thigh pressing down into the ground. If your left thigh came off the ground, you’ve gone too far. Remain here for 5-10 breaths. On an inhale, bring your leg back to center. Breathe deeply as you walk your hands up the strap any amount. On your exhale, draw your knee back to your chest and release your leg down to the ground. Now do the other side.
Utthita Hastasana in Tadasana (Extended Hands in Mountain Pose)
Come to a standing position. Bring your feet together and press down through all four corners of your feet. Lift your inner and outer arches. Lift the quadriceps. Lengthen all four sides of your torso evenly. Draw your lower belly (place right below your navel) gently in and up. Stretch your arms up toward the ceiling and let your palms face each other, shoulder distance apart. Draw shoulder blades in towards your chest as you lengthen across your collarbones. Firm your upper outer arms in. Lengthen all four sides of your neck evenly and keep the chin parallel to the floor. Stay here for 5-10 breaths.
Adho Mukha Svanasana Variation /Prep (Puppy Dog)
Stand facing the wall. Place your wrists at the height of your hips with your fingertips lightly brushing against the wall. With this measurement and hands shoulder distance apart, slowly begin to walk your feet away from the wall. Press your hands into the wall and straighten the arms until you make a tabletop position and your feet are directly under your hips and are hip distance apart. Spread evenly through your fingers. Keep your arms in line with your ears. Spin the biceps up toward the ceiling and rotate the outer upper arms down toward the floor. Lengthen the spine. Press your thighbones into the hamstrings and straighten the legs. Remain here for 5-10 breaths. To come out, step towards the wall and come to stand.
Happy practicing! See you in class!
Ashley Corlis, Fabletics Master