WHY MOST YOGA CLASSES WON’T IMPROVE FLEXIBILITY
I'M JUST NOT NATURALLY FLEXIBLE
Listen I’m not naturally flexible. There are a few of us yoga teachers who aren’t. You won’t see many of us doing crazy poses on instagram, or that often in our classes because our bodies aren’t there…yet.
A lot of the time when you see images, social media or teachers who are contorting their bodies in all kinds of shapes this is mainly because they have extreme flexibility, double jointed parts of their bodies or have been dancers, gymnasts or circus performers in a previous life!
Most of us just don’t move like this.
We see how these people move, look at ourselves struggling to tie up our shoelaces and want to give up.
MY FIGHT TO CHANGE THIS
I realised I loved yoga late in life. I was about 29 and found hot yoga and fell head over heels. I quickly started practicing 5 times a week and saw huge gains. I was feel stronger, more confident and slightly more flexible.
I say slightly because I felt like most of the postures that required flexibility to get into them were a real struggle. Strength poses were easier and I felt myself getting stronger and stronger but the flexibility gains were less impressive.
I never really thought about it and just accepted that this was my body, must be my anatomy, I can’t get any further because my bones are in the way…
I became a teacher and carried these ideas and beliefs into my classes. I peddled the ‘don’t worry some of us are inflexible’ (this might have been true but I had a static view that this wouldn’t really change) and I truly believed it. So many of my students were having the same experience as me. An AMAZING experience of yoga but not finding their bodies getting greatly more mobile.
It wasn’t until my 35th year, in lockdown, that I really started to understand flexibility and mobility.
WHAT I LEARNT
I realised that there’s a big stereotype in yoga.
‘YOGA IS ABOUT FLEXIBILITY’ This really isn’t the case.
It’s just a stereotype. Most yoga classes focus on functional strength, balance, breath, and the mind-body connection.
To truly change your range of motion, you need a targeted approach outside of class or workshops and additional classes that provide you this.
WHAT I DIDN’T KNOW
- Flexibility is negotiated by both the length and the elasticity of your connective tissues and by your nervous system
- Your connective tissues stretch best when relaxed completely (muscles switched off)
- Your stretch reflex is your body’s natural fight response to your stretching attempts, and it can be turned off through specific breathing exercises
- Deep stretching reduces the strength of your muscles and stability of your joints for approximately two hours
These are tissues in your body that are more plastic and unmoving. Things like fascia, joints and ligaments.
We want to apply stress and tension to them to make them strong but we don’t want them to be extremely flexible.
The nervous system controls everything you do, including breathing, walking, thinking, and feeling. This system is made up of your brain, spinal cord, and all the nerves of your body.
The brain is the control centRE and the spinal cord is the major highway to and from the brain.
The western definition of FLEXIBILITY is just the ability to move muscles and joints through their complete range.
It’s an ability we’re born with, but that most of us lose. “Our lives are restricted and sedentary, so our bodies get lazy, muscles atrophy, and our joints settle into a limited range.” Dr. Thomas Green.
TIPS TO GET MORE FLEXIBILE
- PRACTICE OUTSIDE CLASSES: Very flexible people who have had to work for their range of motion have done a lot of work outside of a yoga class. Most teachers don’t talk about it or necessarily know about the tools needed to develop flexibility because they are naturally flexible. You need passive, long-hold poses, supplemental to your regular practices.
- YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM MATTERS: Your nervous system can block up to 50% of your gains. Stress, poor breathing patterns, and lack of mental focus can totally throw off your flexibility game. This is because your body has something called the stretch reflex, an electrical firing of muscles to protect you from over-stretching tissues and exposing vulnerable regions of your body to danger. This is a self-preservation response, and to make real gains, you have to switch off or override your stretch reflex
- NUTRITION IS KING: Healthy food is integral to keeping you healthy and moving well both inside and out. If you’re trying to survive on processed foods, refined oils, and snack bars, your muscle tissue, fascia, tendons, and ligaments take a hit. The effect these nutrient lacking foods have created rigid, dehydrated, poorly nourished, and inflamed tissues.
WANT TO GET STARTED?
We do 1 60 minute class a week (online or in person) focusing on full body or a specific part that you want to make progress. (back, hips, hamstrings, shoulders) This is then followed by 15 minutes a day homework designed by me. Do this for 6 week and then reevaluate your progress and goals
HAPPY HIPS COURSE: This course is fantastic for building flexibility and mobility in the hips that then makes movement in the rest of the body easier too. You get 8 gravity yoga classes, 3 yoga hips flows and a breakdown of your hip anatomy!
There will be 2 of these workshops a month. We will cycle through focuses on hips, back, hamstrings and shoulders. These workshops will be 75 minutes long and at Hotpod Yoga Margate. The first workshop will be August 2nd at 7pm until 8:15pm
Find Out More
A transformational yoga class that takes you from beginner to confidently attending any yoga class!