In celebration for International Day of Yoga – let’s look at…
I am a true believer in yoga for everyone. It hasn’t always been that way. In fact, as an ex-dancer, my flexibility plummeted when I started doing group fitness and strength training. Typical story, not enough time, needed to get my workout in and let my flexibility slide.
I reconnected with flexibility training, specifically yoga, because I knew it would be good for me, but I still wanted my workout. I started with a Power/Flow based practice that focused on keeping me moving and challenging my body physically, so I felt like I had a workout when I was done.
My journey progressed, and I came to a stressful point in my life where I was injured. I explored relaxation/restorative yoga and it was perfect for me at that time. Today, I love to blend different styles and disciplines together to challenge my body in different ways, keeping my body mobile but finding some calm and peace in my eqy. My current favorite is Yoga Pilates Fusion.
What I have realized is that the older I get, flexibility training is more important than ever to my aging gracefully.
There are a couple of reasons for tightness/lack of flexibility in muscles:
- Heredity – some of us are just more flexible than others based on our genetic makeup, physiology and anatomy
- Gender – not always, but in some instances, due to the structure of our bodies, we can be more/or less flexible. For instance, women tend to be more flexible in the hips then men, because women are designed to bear children and there needs to be more room/range in the pelvis area to allow for passage of a baby through the virginial canal.
- The old adage – “use it or lose it”. If you don’t take your bodies through the full ranges of motions in joints, the muscles around the joints tighten and the range decreases.
- Inactivity – muscles can get tight due to restricted movement. Over time, we can see imbalances in muscles.
- Activity – repetitive movements and strengthening without stretching will lead to stiffness and rigidity.
- Age – yes, unfortunately, flexibility is one of those precious things that we lose with age unless trained due to decrease in water content in tendons, making them stiffer, decrease in elasticity of ligaments and fascial dehydration.
Given these, it’s easy to understand why our flexibility normally worsens the older we get. Barring any pre-existing medical condition, our loss of flexibility is simply because our muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia change as we age.
The good news is that we can improve our flexibility no matter what stage we are in our lives. We may not be able to get back the flexibility of our younger selves, but we can certainly work to improve whatever flexibility we currently have. Furthermore, you don’t have to be a contortionist to improve your flexibility and yes, Yoga can offer we every day “Joe’s” the benefit of flexibility and range of motion movements that our bodies so need.
As a group fitness instructor and someone who believes that yoga is for everyone, my classes veer towards the “non-traditional”. I explain where to put your body (arms, legs etc.) and what you should be feeling in the pose rather than using traditional Sanskrit or western terminology. Some of my participants say this makes them comfortable as they don’t need to know the names of the poses to do them. However, for my own practice, my journey is ongoing and I enjoying participating in a “traditional” class that challenges both my mind and body and allows me to continue my learning.
Yoga can be whatever you want it to be. Yoga offers range of motion, flexibility, balance and stability, all of the things we need at all stages of life. There are a number of options as far as yoga goes and as the saying goes: “you may need to kiss a few frogs to find your Prince Charming”. Try a few different types of yoga to find what is best suited to you. Remember, if you don’t like an activity or experience you won’t want to do it, so find something that you like and add it to your routine.
Group Fitness Director, Personal Training Director, Business Manager and Yoga instructor at the ACADEMY.