by Ruth Zito
How often have we heard someone say this, or maybe you have even thought that yourself? That is like saying, “I am too dirty to take a bath, or I am not strong enough to join a gym.” You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga. Flexibility is a result of yoga, not a prerequisite. It is through yoga that we become more flexible, just as it is when taking a bath, we become clean.
Flexibility from the Inside Out
Many times, it is what we resist is what we need the most. It may be out of fear, maybe it is out of our comfort zone, or simply our egos get in the way thinking that if I cannot touch my toes like everyone else, I have failed. It begins with increasing our flexibility from the inside out, it starts with our mindset. Yoga teaches us that we need to incorporate not only physical flexibility, but also having a flexible mind and flexible energetic body. A famous quote states, “It’s not about touching your toes, but about what you learn about yourself on the way down.”
Flexibility and Aging
As we go through the aging process not only do, we lose strength, but our muscles become less flexible too. The collagen and elasticity of our ligaments, tendons, and muscles decreases. This may set us up for increased risk of injury, compromise our balance and make normal activities of daily living more challenging. Research shows flexibility declines by about 5% during each decade of life. You can preserve much of your flexibility as you age by spending as little as ten minutes a few times a week stretching or taking a gentle yoga class. The type of stretching you do matters. Most people don’t stretch properly, and that is why yoga is the perfect solution to provide safe and effective stretching.
There are many adverse effects to losing our flexibility. Tight muscles and tendons increase your risk for back pain and many other musculoskeletal injuries and can adversely affect posture. Most people take flexibility for granted until they lose it. Think about it. You need a certain degree of flexibility to turn your head to look over your shoulder while driving or to bend down to pick something up off of the floor. Older people who aren’t active lose the ability to do the everyday movements that most of us take for granted.
It is also important to find balance in our bodies. It is just as much about strength as it is about flexibility. Mobility plus stability equals a healthy body. There needs to be an equality between the two. Naturally flexible people actually need to practice with more mindfulness and awareness when they do yoga because they can easily overstretch their ligaments and decrease stability in their joints, which may cause short term injuries. Less flexible people, while they may be challenged getting into some of the yoga poses, are actually more aware and less likely to strain or injure their joints.
Just Do It!
So what are you waiting for? Avoiding getting started with a yoga program is always easier than putting in the time, effort, and energy into something that could change your life for the good. Find a class where you feel comfortable and at home. Leave the ego at the door and don’t begin at a level that feels so overwhelming or you feel frustrated. Start with a beginner’s mind, whether you are a triathlete or have never exercised your entire life. Stretching takes time and consistency. Communicate clearly with your yoga teacher and ask questions.
Yoga is for everyone. It is not about pushing or going too deep, pain is NOT gain. Just learn to soften your body, mind and spirit, and you will come out on the other side a healthy, happy person. …Namaste, Ruth