Remember: no matter how deep your posture - what matters is who you are when you get there - Max Strom
If you believe that practising yoga will make you more flexible, you have come to the right place! Among the many benefits of yoga, flexibility ranks at the top. Just ask any long-time yoga devotee! But wait: what, exactly, do we mean by flexibility?
In its purest sense, flexibility is defined by the amplitude of movement and the comfort felt when achieving it. Thus, it stands to reason that we are not all equal when it comes to flexibility. Still, you can work on your degree of flexibility.
As you accept that your body has unique limits on how fluidly it can move, you must then see that yoga is a discipline that allows you to develop suppleness... but maybe not how you envision it.
For instance, some people put the cart before the horse, sometimes badly performing yoga postures. Often, such rashness results in injury, which could take months to recover from or otherwise cost them dearly.
Multiple studies show that, of those practitioners who do yoga at home - and now, even those who take yoga classes online, about half of them sustain some degree of injury. That suggests that no correction is ever made to their (potentially) bad posture. Or maybe there's no teacher to remind them not to go too deeply into any asana before their body is ready for it.
If you want to work on your flexibility by doing yoga, by all means, do. However, be careful to do it well.
Your desire for flexibility may blind you to the safety and efficiency aspects demanded from each cycle of asanas, your spine's health and the mastery of breathing. Let your Superprof help you avoid such blind spots, alright?
Here are all the mistakes not to make when you work on your flexibility, so you can be a do-be little yogi!
Mistake #1: Believing You Must Already Be Flexible
This one ranks among the first mistakes not to make when you want to work on flexibility. Thinking that being flexible is essential to being a yogi - even one who has never taken classes, means we've already underestimated ourselves - maybe even talked ourselves out of taking any yoga classes.
It also means we perceive the practice of yoga in a biased manner.
You are right in thinking that this discipline is, first and foremost, one which unites body and mind. However, you may have overlooked the idea that it also helps to shape our ideas and how we think about things. This winning trio places flexibility among the tools that facilitate practice but it's not a requirement or even an integral part of practising yoga.
Of course, being flexible makes things easier, but yoga is not about being flexible. For that matter, flexibility itself shouldn't be a goal but a means to an end.
You must see yoga as a more comprehensive and richer practice than that. It is a sport that is both mental and spiritual, where postures (asanas) allow you to channel your best self into your yoga sessions and, as you accept the yoga lifestyle, into every aspect of your existence.
In this way, flexibility grows and sustains over the weeks and months of yoga classes. Being too rigid in your trial class does not mean you can never be flexible. It's something you have to work at. Yoga will help.
What's all the fuss about anyway? Why do people believe they have to be flexible to do yoga?
Mistake #2: Forcing yourself to be Flexible
"While studying yoga in general and the philosophy of yoga in particular, it is very important to give yourself permission to receive different ideas." - guru Richard Freeman
Guru Freeman, based in the US state of Colorado, has been practising yoga since 1968. He's written many books on the subject and taught countless classes that include Sun Salutations, various Hatha courses, Bikram classes and even Vinyasa and Kundalini styles of yoga. He is certified in the Ashtanga tradition - one of the first American yogis to receive that certification.
He goes on to say:
"There is no obligation that you must believe or adhere to the ideas presented in a text. The intention of the original philosophers was quite the opposite; is that you learn to think for yourself so that you can experience reality as it is."
Remember what we mentioned about yoga helping you shape your ideas? Let's put flexibility under that microscope for just a bit...
While flexibility is not a critical element for doing yoga, it can help to improve your yogic experience - among other ways, by letting you do a sequence more effectively. Thus, through regular practice, you can gain flexibility and develop your overall physical condition.
There's just one fundamental rule for this perspective: do not force yourself to be more flexible than you are physically ready to be.
No two people are equally limber; for that matter, even our limbs are not all equal when it comes to their elasticity - or their strength. That's why you should never bounce-bounce-bounce to reach your toes at all costs when doing the Seated Forward Fold pose for the first time.
Yoga is an evolutionary practice. Progress is made session after session and you'd better believe that your every effort is rewarded.
Finally, another yoga-induced idea shift: you'll more easily accept that, if the flexibility does not come right away, it will come little by little. And if you're still not as flexible as you imagined you could be, don't be discouraged. That's the yoga state of mind!
You could start taking yoga classes near me here.
Mistake #3: Working to Become Flexible Without Any Help
The ability to stretch demonstrates flexibility, but that isn't the whole of it. In that same vein, it's not enough to do a few asana sequences and movements of that type to gain flexibility. We can go further!
When working on your flexibility, neglecting external support can be a serious mistake. Such support includes both hardware and your yoga teacher.
Have you ever heard of yoga hardware?
Yogis at all levels may enter their yoga studio to find it equipped with straps, swings and even wall bars, like in a ballet studio. Other such equipment included yoga blocks, rings and hoops that can help yoga devotees brace their limbs or work them harder.
In fact, confronted with all of this equipment, you will probably find additional reserves of motivation so you can play with them sooner.
These accessories, when properly used, help maintain each yoga pose while providing overall body support. Using them, you can engage every part of your body more easily while working towards your flexibility goals... without even realizing you're doing it!
You'll note we did say that these devices must be used correctly, right?
Trusting yourself is sometimes a mistake you make when you think you are doing well. That's where your yoga teacher comes in. S/he can be a great asset to guide you through your asanas without unduly focusing on flexibility.
For example, if you take lessons at home alone or follow yoga classes online, the goals those participants have will not necessarily line up with yours, nor will the remote teacher even know what your goals are.
That's a little bit like watching videos describing what it's like to eat but never quite getting to eat, yourself. You're just not getting the full experience - indeed, you're not getting the best of the experience.
A yoga teacher - whether in a yoga studio or a Superprof yoga teacher online will be your guide and support as you discover more about yoga (and yourself). Your guru will focus his teaching on the most suitable asanas so that you gain flexibility and maybe push you a little, but gently, so you can explore your possibilities.
A yoga teacher gives you the assurance of not making mistakes, and of not hurting yourself. And s/he will likely devise the best stretching routine for you to reach your goals even faster!
Find out about yoga classes near me here.
Mistake #4: Comparing Your Level of Flexibility to Others'
Whether you opted for a yoga teacher to instruct you or you've resorted to watching video group yoga lessons while stuck at home, you should never make the terrible mistake of comparing yourself to any other yoga practitioner.
Just like comparing yourself to social media influencers or any other prominent social group, you'll only make yourself more frustrated if, on your quest for flexibility, you continuously compare yourself to others.
Earlier, we mentioned that the joints, limbs and muscles are not the same across all of humankind. For instance, someone with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome will likely be far more flexible than even the most dedicated yogi. That just goes to show that everyone has a different body, each with its limits and possibilities.
Watching other yogis (beginners or experienced) perform this pose or that one with such seeming ease, discouragement could quickly overwhelm you. This crucial mistake is made worse by the fact that, when practising yoga, you're supposed to turn your focus inwards, on yourself, and nothing but yourself, your breathing and the vital energy flowing through you.
Valuing the path rather than the goal, championing the progress rather than the result, letting go rather than hanging on... such is the spirit of this beautiful discipline. There's no need to see how much more flexible anyone else is.
Mistake #5: Not Letting Your Body Breathe
"How ridiculous!" you might think. "Unless I consciously hold my breath, my body will breathe!" Oh, novice yogi...
Among the common mistakes when it comes to working on flexibility, assiduousness could prove to be counterproductive. Sounds weird, right?
For a yogi - beginner or advanced, each session is an opportunity to observe the progress made during the last yoga class. For example: can s/he touch their feet more easily? Does their chest open up better when doing the Warrior I pose? How much deeper has s/he gone into the Pigeon pose and how much longer did s/he hold the Plank?
If the efforts pay off and dramatic progress is noted, motivation can run high. One risks embracing a 'more is more' mentality to progress as quickly as possible. You may even go to more yoga classes than necessary. That's is a serious mistake!
Your body and mind need to assimilate the progress they've made and your muscles need a little rest - even for as gentle a sport as yoga can be.
To put it another way: imagine going shopping one day and the next day, you go back and buy the exact same things, and the day after that as well... That would be counterproductive for a whole lot of reasons, right?
Especially at the beginning, space your workouts a bit, even if you find them becoming easier. Talk with your yoga teacher to see if the time is right for you to step up your session.
Always remember: becoming flexible is not a race against time. There are lots of things you need to know about flexibility in yoga; take the time to learn them all!
The Last Big Mistake in Yoga: Breathing
Yes, breathing... again!
Your quest for flexibility most likely concerns your whole body; few people only wish for more supple arms or a more limber waist. And if your entire body reflects your goal, wouldn't that also imply that your mind and spirit - even the breath you draw is also involved?
For successful stretching and regained serenity - for life itself, breathing is essential. Indeed, whether you stretch your muscles during a gymnastics class or practise asanas in a yoga session, knowing how to breathe is key.
Breathing right makes it possible for movement to flow. Being mindful of your breath makes every asana less complicated to reproduce. In yoga, breathing is such an important part of the practice and pranayama - the practice of breath control form the underpinnings needed for better flexibility.
Overlooking or forgetting to breathe well is a very common mistake. Resolve yourself to not make it from now on!
Before stretching, your yoga teacher might lead you through breathing exercises that involve breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Your guru may also 'direct your breath' by instructing you to close one nostril while breathing through the other and so on.
Breathing well allows better oxygenation of the muscles and the brain. It also helps to lower blood pressure and stress - that is why mindfulness coaches guide pranayama sessions. If controlling your breath can help become more flexible and healthy, what more could you ask for?
Hopefully, you can now see that, by avoiding these few small errors, you can work toward flexibility more efficiently as you work the whole of your body.
Are you ready to get started? Check out these ten essential yoga poses to become more flexible...