Yoga Exercises

Yoga for Flexibility Challenge: 5 Ways to Target Tight Spots on the Mat

What Is Flexibility?

The dictionary definition of flexibility is “the quality of bending easily without breaking,” implying resilience or pliability fairly than sheer depth of vary. So whereas some yoga college students purpose for contortionist feats, most of us would merely like to transfer by means of our lives simply and with out ache: rolling easily away from bed, bending over to decide one thing up off the flooring, and twisting to attain the backseat of the automotive. Each physique has a special potential vary of movement, due to its distinctive bone and joint construction and proportions, so let’s outline flexibility right here as:
The capability to transfer freely, with out ache or restriction, via the physique’s pure vary of movement.

See additionally Not ALL Hips Need Opening: 3 Moves for Hip Stability

What Gets in the Way of Flexibility?

For most of us, our bodily situation is, in some ways, an expression of our habits, way of life, and posture. Our our bodies have a tendency to “shrink-wrap” round any form we maintain for an extended time period so as to scale back the muscular effort required to keep there. We’ve all felt this resistance getting out of the automotive after a street journey or standing up after a day caught behind a desk. Muscles which are requested to contract repeatedly additionally retain extra pressure at relaxation, which explains, for instance, why runners have a tendency to have tight hamstrings. In these methods, and extra, the physique adapts to the calls for you place on it. So in easy phrases the extra you progress, the extra you’re able to transfer; the much less you progress, the much less you’re able to transfer.

These tender tissue variations to your particular way of life take time and repetition to happen, so it follows that they don’t all the time reply to a fast stretch in entrance of the TV. Fortunately, there are different methods to ease these restrictions. Let’s discover them.

See additionally How “Fit” Is Your Fascia?

Yoga for Flexibility Challenge

If stretching alone hasn’t created lasting change in your physique, it’s value exploring different methods for restoring your pure elasticity. We’re difficult you to do exactly that over the subsequent 5 weeks.

Here’s how: Choose one or two areas of your physique from the record under which might be habitually tight and restricted, and commit to give them some loving consideration three–5 occasions every week for the subsequent 5 weeks. Each Monday, we’ll give you a unique method to use that week on your chosen tight spots. By the finish of the month, you must have a good suggestion of which strategies are handiest for your areas of rigidity—and hopefully a brand new type of freedom in your physique!

Common Areas of Tension 

Each week we provides you with choices to goal these generally tight areas. Choose one or two to focus on all month.

  • Neck The scalene muscle tissue on the sides of the neck and the higher trapezius lining the again of the neck and the higher shoulders are basic areas of pressure.
  • Chest & shoulders Our arms and arms are virtually all the time held in entrance of the physique, and particularly once we spend hours on the pc our chest (specifically the pectorals) and entrance of the shoulder (anterior deltoid) can really feel restricted.
  • Side physique We not often transfer sideways in our day by day life, so our lateral physique (together with the latissimus dorsi, quadratus lumborum, the indirect abdominals, and gluteus medius) runs the danger of dropping full and free vary of movement.
  • Hip flexors & quadriceps Sedentary trendy life signifies that our hip flexors (the iliopsoas and rectus femoris) are virtually always in the similar place, probably sacrificing their pure elasticity.
  • Posterior hip & hamstrings Hours of sitting additionally impression on the again of the pelvis. The gluteus maximus and piriformis don’t essentially shorten, however can turn out to be inhibited from firing, leaving the Hamstrings to bear the brunt of their inactivity.

See additionally A Healing Yoga Sequence to Ease Neck + Shoulder Pain


Week 1: Active Stretches

Let’s begin with the method mostly utilized in yoga: the lively stretch. It capitalizes on a reflex that exercise scientists name “reciprocal inhibition,” the place muscle contraction on one aspect of a joint inhibits contraction on the reverse aspect of the joint, encouraging a deeper stretch. In Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold), for instance, we contract the hip flexors and quadriceps on the entrance of the thighs to create extra size for the hamstrings on the again of the thighs.

Less conventional, however typically utilized in trendy yoga courses, is a sort of lively stretch referred to as an isometric stretch or PNF, which stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. In PNF, we lengthen the focused muscle, briefly contract it in its elongated place, then chill out right into a slower, deeper stretch. It makes use of one other of the physique’s reflex actions, Autogenic Inhibition, which inspires a muscle to loosen up after robust contraction to scale back the probability of injury.

In my expertise, lively stretches are the most potent when our muscular tissues are heat and properly lubricated. In reality, if there are one or two areas during which you are feeling very restricted, incorporate lively stretches each time you’re heat (like after yoga apply or different exercise). Active stretches are generally held for round 5–10 breaths, lengthy sufficient to transfer us previous the preliminary resistance in the lengthening muscle however not so lengthy that the contracting muscle tissue tire. Practitioners of ashtanga, Bikram, hatha, Iyengar, and vinyasa yoga can all testify to the effectiveness of lively stretches, when used persistently.

Active Stretches Challenge

Your problem this week is to attempt a few these lively stretches three–5 occasions. Choose a time when your muscular tissues are heat. Make positive that any sensation you are feeling is in the stomach of the focused muscle (moderately than at both finish) and transfer away from sharp sensations or ache. 

About Our Expert
Rachel Land works internationally as a Yoga Medicine educating assistant, and for the remainder of the yr teaches vinyasa, yin, and one-on-one yoga periods in Queenstown, New Zealand. Rachel’s curiosity in anatomy lead her to a 500-hour instructor training with Tiffany Cruikshank and Yoga Medicine. She is presently working towards her 1000-hour certification. 

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