When you started your yoga practice, you likely had weight loss or tension release in mind. You may not have expected to stick with yoga as long as you have or to want more out of your yoga practice. One of the benefits you may want to gain from your yoga practice is to improve your flexibility. If this is your goal, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here are some tips to get you started.
Yoga for flexibility
Once some people regarded yoga to be the activity that older people and housewives would do throughout the day. This could not be more incorrect, and some yoga exercises can deliver a much more intense workout than many skilled athletes, and sports women can withstand. The current demand for yoga has been aided by the many pro sports people, who have implemented this in their fitness training, to aid flexibility and help reduce injuries. In addition to the good points of increased flexibility, reduced stress and enhanced mobility, yoga is also great for developing strength.
If you are one of these people that love to work out, you should understand the importance of being flexible.
When you are a flexible person you can achieve a wider range of motion. Some exercises may strain your muscles when they aren’t very flexible, but when your muscles are able to have a greater range of motion, you won’t be hurting yourself just to complete some movements.
Flexibility will also help prevent injuries. As mentioned earlier, sometimes you strain your muscles just to finish a movement. When you are flexible, your muscles are able to move with more freedom leading to fewer injuries.
Flexible muscles will also help improve your performance in the gym. Because your muscles have fewer restrictions on their movements, they will be able to do more during your workout.
Increase Bends and Arches
One of the easiest ways to improve your flexibility through yoga is to increase the poses that use bends and arches. For example, downward facing dog is a great pose to start with. You start off with your body in a bent position making a reversed V shape with your body. Your rear is the point of the triangle or V. You are stretched at your arms and your legs.
This helps improve flexibility over time by being able to increase the stretch and the move by bringing your hands and feet closer together over time. You can do this technique with other poses and asanas as well. Some of these include any of your forward or reverse bends and your rocking boat and bridge techniques.
Move Away from the Wall
Some asanas have you using a wall as a wall sit or as a backup for your legs. The problem with this is that you don’t work your leg muscles or back muscles. This means you do not get the flexibility you are looking for or want. The wall gives your body a backup, so you are resting against the wall rather than using your muscles entirely. Move away from the wall and start using your muscles and body to hold the position. You will notice more flexibility, and you will also be working your core.
Use Bricks and Straps
When you first start out working on your flexibility, you may get discouraged quickly, especially with yoga. What you will find is that you aren’t able to keep your legs or arms stretched as much as you thought. Instead of getting discouraged, use bricks and straps. With straps, you can start with a certain length of the strap and shorten that length overtime or remove the strap entirely. With bricks you can start with them in the highest position on their side and slowly move the brick to the other end, laying down, and finally removed once you can stretch to the full extent of the move.
Think of your workout as a meal. Your warm-up is your appetizer, the actual sweat session is your entree, and your cooldown is—wait… cooldown? “Most people skip stretching because they don’t think it’s important,” says John Porcari, Ph.D., an exercise and sports science professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. “But gradually returning your body to its natural resting state is the best way to prevent cardiovascular and muscular mishaps.”
So may we introduce to you: yoga for dessert. That’s right, yoga—the age-old practice of controlling your breath, opening up your body, and quieting your mind—has become the cherry on top for boxing, indoor cycling, and boot camp. Trace it back to a growing emphasis on the mind-body connection and an increasing interest in restorative and recovery-enhancing techniques. In fact, instructors at buzzy niche studios (like NYC’s Box + Flow and Studio 360) and big-name gyms (including Crunch) are replacing the standard quad-stretch-shoulder-roll quickie with 10 to 20 minutes of slow-flowing poses.
Smart thinking, since research shows that a single bout of yoga can reduce post-workout muscle soreness, thanks to improved flexibility. “Yoga gives your muscles a chance to relax and lengthen after they’ve been contracting throughout your workout, which should help you maintain range of motion even after intense exercise,” explains Porcari. “It also helps lower your heart rate, so you can enter recovery mode faster.” In other words, you’ll be in better shape to max out your next workout, whatever it may be.
If you use these tips to help with your flexibility, then you will start to see improvement. Though flexibility does come with routine yoga practice and with changing your routine as needed, it will come with patience. Just remember that it will take time and work.