get flexible or cry tryin’
Those who are flexible are happier, richer, more satisfied in life and live longer. You know I’m joking right, but this is what the world (internet) would have you believing.
The search for ‘what’s the quickest way to get flexible?’, ‘can I get flexible after 50?’, ‘how do I know if my hips are flexible’, ‘what are the best exercises for flexibility’ is common, not only on Google, but from the people I meet coming to yoga.
We’ve been told by our physio, a friend, seen a picture of some hot guy/girl, doing something quite provocative on a beach and my god, I AM IN!
But this obsession with flexibility isn’t necessarily the healthiest pursuit, and for me at the beginning of my yoga life certainly led to some crying.
I started Hot Yoga back in 2011 and soon enough I was in deeper folds and backbends, I was ecstatic. But these achievements were at some cost, and my lower back and hips are still works in progress in a healing strengthening journey.
I am not alone, there are literally thousands of yoga students and teachers moving away from deep traditional practices broken and hurting.
Before the rest of yoga community come at me, I want to be clear that yoga or yoga postures are not a problem per se, it’s how deep postures are taught to a population of Western bodies.
A body that has sat in chairs rather than squats for most it’s life, fusing the bones of the pelvis into a different position, one that is heavier, shaped differently, than those of an Eastern population.
What’s the aim of being flexible?
Before we talk about the how, let’s touch on why we want to be flexible.
My opinion is it should be about being comfortable, efficient and graceful in our movement. Right? Yes it might look great in a photo and as a party trick to do full splits, but does it add anything to your life longer term? Maybe it does, I’m not here to judge whether it does or doesn’t, but what I am sure about is that it’s not worth injury for.
How to get flexible and not cry trying?
First I want to say that healthy flexibility is flexibility that is balanced equally through the body, where there is strength to support it (a good active range of movement and control) and that it is balanced through the tissues and not happening entirely at the joints.
The flexibility that comes with hypermobility usually fails these criteria (unless work is done on it), and causes sufferers a lot of issues.
Over the years I have seen so many people with hyper mobility in yoga class, it’s not a suprise though as these people feel they can ‘do yoga’ easily, creating shapes with their body. What can lack is control, strength and support and this opens us up to injury.
On the other side are people who feel completely inflexible, who look at deeper postures and feel their bodies cannot get there. For some, this will be the case, the shape of the bones may not allow it.
But if that’s not the issue, then forcing these bodies into long hold stretches can feel uncomfortable, frustrating and as I’ve seen in many just takes so long to make a difference that they usually give up.
So what do we do? In terms of an approach, nothing in health and fitness has ever been, or will be, a simple answer, as we are all different. However there are key elements we want in our movement training (and no you don’t have to do a yoga class specifically to get flexible).
- Varied and regular movement
- Mobility / range of movement exercises
- Different types of strengthening
- Tissue release (massage)
- Active stretches
- Passive stretches
It was through my own journey, learning and experiences with movement and healing my body that led me to create a class aimed at helping every ‘body’ get more freedom and space (flexibility). It includes some yoga inspired movement, I am a yoga teacher after all, but also includes some of training in Somatics and Massage Therapy, and experience with strength and conditioning.
It is how I look after my body. And I LOVE sharing it with people.
I am offering a free (!!!) introduction to this type of class. A mini session, touching on some of the techniques I use to create a FEEL GOOD class.
Consider it your physical therapy.
Expect a little bit of bodyweight exercise, self massage, mobility and active and passive stretching through yoga. YUM.