People are born with a very flexible body. As we get older, a decrease in the level of flexibility of our body is observed. The good news is that it is possible to add flexibility to the body with the right exercises! We know being flexible feels really great, but other than that, we don’t know why we should be flexible. Knowing why we do something is one of the most effective steps to achieve the goal. So, in this article, we will talk about the benefits of working on our flexibility and examine five fun yoga poses that you can start working with today.
Our body gains flexibility over time with yoga movements. So, yoga can be done to gain flexibility. If you’re just starting out, the best yoga postures for flexibility for you are: Standing forward fold, low lunge side bend, screaming toe with triceps stretch, cobbler’s pose, and reclining spinal twist.
As a natural part of the aging process, we become less flexible. However, our habits in our lifestyle are the factors that affect the speed and extent of flexibility to decrease. Because instead of hunting, collecting food, we now sit on chairs, drive a car, go up and down escalators. We have to spend long hours working at a desk. In short, we spend a large part of our day immobile. So we have to deal with our muscles to stay fit and flexible.
You may not realize that you are not actually flexible until you get on a yoga mat because our bodies are very, very good at adapting to our daily habits. But especially if you complain of pain in your waist, neck, or shoulders, if you feel that your body gets heavier when you wake up in the morning, if your body contracts frequently while moving, these are the non-verbal messages that your body gives you. The message is clear: I need you to work on flexibility! Fortunately, it is possible to increase your flexibility, especially by doing yoga!
Benefits of Yoga for Flexibility
Here are a few of the benefits of flexibility:
- Provides relief by reducing tension in the muscles
- Your energy increases
- Pain in the lower back, neck and shoulders decreases / disappears (If you do not have a health problem observed by your doctor)
- Your mobility increases
- Muscle imbalances improve
- Your risk of injury is reduced
- Your posture becomes smoother
Yoga is one of the most effective exercises to increase flexibility; because:
- It combines static, dynamic, and passive forms of flexibility.
- Yoga emphasizes the role of breath in releasing tension.
- It is studied with the central nervous system.
- It is based on the principle that everything in the body is connected, provides a holistic perspective.
- It flexes the muscles with postures in different positions.
- Thanks to the postures that continue one after another, it gradually goes deeper, thereby reducing the risk of injury and offering a more comfortable, more enjoyable flexibility exercise.
A few suggestions before you start:
- Most importantly: Don’t hurt yourself. The key to increasing your flexibility is to keep it slow and steady. Adjust the postures to your current flexibility. Stop where you feel good. Learn to distinguish between stretching and pain. If you feel pain, move away from the movement, go to your own level and try to relax a little more.
- Instead of thinking “I am trying to stretch the muscles”, work with the idea of ”I relax my muscles”.
- Don’t hold your breath. Put your focus on your breath as you move on and out of the postures.
- Be sure to warm up before going into deeper postures.
- Be disciplined. Doing and leaving once will not do much for you. Doing it regularly makes a difference.
If you’re ready, let’s start!
5 Best Yoga Postures for Flexibility
- Standing Forward Fold
This posture is almost like a test, it helps you realize how flexible you are at the moment and how far you have progressed as you continue your practice! The more disciplined you progress, the more flexible you will be, and finally you can touch your hands by keeping your legs upright. But for now, you need to stay as far as you feel. The support of the lower abdominal muscles provides more flexibility in the lumbar spine.
- Low Lunge Side Bend
It releases tension in hip flexions and stretches obliques, intercostals, and shoulders. When looking from above, make sure that your knees are not in front of your wrist and pull your lower abdomen in order not to overload your lower waist. In this posture, exhale three to five slowly and switch sides.
- Screaming Toe With Triceps Stretch
This posture may be the biggest stretching exercise for your feet. Increasing the flexibility in your feet gracefully fluctuates energy throughout your body, helping to protect your knees, hips, and spine health. Take 3 to 5 slow breaths on both sides.
- Cobbler’s Pose
If you have difficulty in this posture, you can put a block or pillow under your knees. You can leave the supports as you progress. It is a great stretching exercise for your muscle groups in the lower region.
- Reclining Spinal Twist
Perfect for releasing tension at the waist, flexing the hips, and opening the chest area. In this restorative posture, you can stop for 5 to 10 breaths per breath, or even for a few minutes if you feel comfortable. Do not forget to apply for both sides.
Important note: Yoga is not a medical treatment method. Please contact your doctor for your health problems.
Are You Flexible Enough to Practice Yoga?
Asanas are the physical movement leg of Yoga, the fearful dream of most people. When it comes to yoga, we usually see a person sitting cross-legged or human bodies that have entered into very difficult shapes. In this case, one thinks that doing yoga naturally means doing these movements. However, this is not the case at all. There is nothing to be afraid of and magnified. Because only standing, sitting, and lying down can be enough to do the yoga movements. Indeed, these three postures we use in our daily lives are essential Asanas in Yoga. All remaining Asanas derive from these three. So when we learn and practice to stand but stand right, sit but sit right and lie down, we practice Yoga Asanas.
After you start making these three Asanas completely, you can progress step by step and add new moves. First lifting the arms, then the legs, then the neck and then the abdomen, etc. Progressing step by step as you get stronger and masterfully will not tire the body unnecessarily and protect against injuries. Progress is possible only to the extent that one’s body and mind are ready. So there is no need to hurry! This approach calms the mind anyway. Our health system is in complete balance and harmony. In Yoga, the balance is the meeting of mind and body, the mind becoming aware of the body. Thus, the person returns to the center and gets rid of his negative fiction. This is accompanied by the opening of the body to positive commands of the mind. What we call Asana is that simple. In other words, mind, and body to meet and collaborate. At that time, both do their part, fulfill their duty, and stress decreases. It disappears completely over time.
Flexibility and Yoga Asanas
Bends, skews, distortions, and humpbacks occur in everyone’s body in life. Asanas put the body back on track. Yoga postures help the body to gain the flexibility it needs over time. As we have already mentioned, it not only fits the body but also the mind and prepare for meditation. In other words, they are ready to think deeply, to descend to the root of thought, to the place where it originated. This is the resource area where all potentials are together. We can say that the area where life energy is the most intense. Yoga Asanas are actually a type of meditation as well as preparation for meditation. Here the focus of the mind is the body. Entry from the body to the root of thought. This is also called YinYang. It is referred to as Hatha in India, in Sanskrit. This is the area of dualities such as day and night, female-male, light-dark, cold-hot, etc.
As we practice the asanas, we experience these dichotomies, and from time to time we move on to the unity field. First, you put the body in a shape, then you leave that shape, you just stay with the feeling, and the body now finds its own way. So the mind is subjected to the body. And leaves the controlling position, enters the audience or the witness position. This is the place where the transformation has already started, and the mind that travels later becomes involved in the event and melts in that “transformation fire.” This is a step-by-step process that requires determination and continuity, but it is a very enjoyable process because this is the process of opening up to life. It is the most valuable investment that people can make to themselves and to the world, to develop, clean, and open their own consciousness.
There is no age to start yoga! What matters is will and intention. Then it is diligence. As we said, Yoga can be practiced just by lying down or sitting down. People who have not had any exercise in their life or who have had a physical disability by having an accident, even those with a congenital disability can easily practice Yoga. These so-called deficiencies can all turn into excuses for not starting Yoga. However, it is enough to only want, to start and continue to do Yoga. Of course, it will be much safer to start with an experienced Yoga instructor. Progress with a good coach will be both on the right track and faster. After a while, the person begins to practice on his own. And this has a totally different taste and educational aspect. In fact, one cannot fully internalize knowledge unless he/she applies and experiences what he/she has learned on his own.
The Importance of Flexibility for Yoga
Flexibility varies according to the regions of our body. The most flexible points of our body are our muscles. After stretching our muscles, it comes to connective tissues such as ligaments, tendons and fascia, and finally to bones. The rate of elastin (flexibility) in our muscles is higher than other body structures. Our fascia is more flexible than ligaments and tendons. Our ligaments and tendons need to be stronger and tighter, which means that another protein called collagen is more. So, in a simpler explanation, our muscles are the most flexible place in our bodies. Therefore, in any stretching or yoga classes, the focus is primarily on the muscles. We can stretch our fascia, ligaments, and tendons only when we wait long in asanas such as yin yoga and do not use our muscles, leaving them alone.
This is the whole point. Muscles can be flexed one way or another. But the flexibility of a person is not limited to just muscles. If we do not stretch our connective tissues such as fascia, ligaments, and tendons, these tissues in our body may stick together and decrease our flexibility over time. That is why it is very important to stretch these deep connective tissues in our body. Of course, we may lose our flexibility over time for some reason. We can list these reasons as age, immobility, body type, and strength exercise. In addition, people’s flexibility varies by gender. Women are more flexible than men and flexibility is a relative definition, since our joint and bone structure and genetic codes are different. Moreover, it is a fact that women can be more flexible with hormonal changes such as menstruation, ovulation, pregnancy, and childbirth. Given all these reasons, we can see that flexibility is not a benchmark for yoga. Being flexible is an advantage but not a must-have condition in yoga.
So why is flexibility important? Or why is it necessary to stretch our muscles, tissues such as fascia, ligaments, and tendons? Because flexibility reduces muscle pain and reduces the risk of injury. It also relaxes people both physically and spiritually. Stretching our body makes our muscles more flexible and stronger, reduces the pressure on our joints, corrects our posture disorders, increases our body’s mobility, and relaxes our mind. So far, we’ve only talked about the physical benefits of flexibility. Well, does flexibility have no mental benefits? When our body flexes, our soul and mind also stretch. We start to look at our environment differently. We have a broader and more flexible perspective. We approach things more calmly. Our attitudes and reactions change, we give more flexible and calm reactions.
As a result, flexibility is of course important. Being flexible is also the same. But it is not a sine qua non for yoga asanas. I draw your attention, only for yoga asanas. However, being mentally and spiritually flexible is very important not only in yoga but also in our daily life. If we live a more flexible life, everything will be much easier, fun, comfortable, peaceful and happiness will not be so far from us.
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