Approach #2 Athletic Stretches
If you are not someone who is interested in yoga, then doing stretches at home or the gym works as well, too. The stretches listed below are often used in a gentle warm-up or cool down. Do not push yourself hard and make sure that you have been shown how to do these stretches properly.
The intent is to protect and strengthen the back, not do any harm.
Flexibility And Reciprocal Inhibition
Along with stretching connective tissue, much of the work we do in yoga aims to enlist the neurological mechanisms that allow our muscles to release and extend. One such mechanism is reciprocal inhibition. Whenever one set of muscles contracts, this built-in feature of the autonomic nervous system causes the opposing muscles to release. Yogis have been using this mechanism for millennia to facilitate stretching.
To experience reciprocal inhibition firsthand, sit down in front of a table and gently press the edge of your hand, karate-chop style, onto the tabletop. If you touch the back of your upper armyour triceps muscleyoull notice that its firmly engaged. If you touch the opposing muscles, the biceps , they should feel relaxed.
In Paschimottanasana the same mechanism is at play. Your hamstrings are released when you engage their opposing muscle group, the quadriceps.
David Sheer, an orthopedic manual therapist in Nashville, Tennessee, uses the principle of reciprocal inhibition to help patients safely improve their range of motion. If you went to Sheer to improve your hamstring flexibility, he would work the quadriceps, developing strength in the front thigh to help relax the hamstrings. Then, when the hamstrings have achieved their maximum range for the day, Sheer would strengthen them with weight-bearing, isometric, or isotonic exercises.
Stretching Out The Thoracic Spine
This stretch to increase back flexibility needs a prop to assist in its success. You will need a large foam roller that is high enough to keep your body off the floor when feet are planted. Begin by lying over the roller.
Put your hands behind the head, bend the knees while your feet are flat on the floor. The roller can be in the crook of your back to start or wherever you find comfortable.
Lift your hips from the floor so it creates a small bridge, then walk with both feet forwards and backward, so your spine moves over the roller. While many stretches work on the lower spine, this one is meant for the thoracic area, so focus the rolling there. Go from the base of the shoulder blades and roll to the base of the rib cage.
Your bottom can touch the floor if needed. Pay attention to any stiff areas that are felt. When that happens, lower your hips and arch your neck/head and chest over the roller. Hold and inhale/exhale 2-3 times and then work on the next stiff spot.
Do this 5 times fully along the thoracic spine and pause when needed. This stretch should be done 3-5 times per week for increased flexibility.
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Easy King Pigeon Pose
A. Begin in a low lunge with the left foot forward and back knee on the floor.
B. Slowly crawl hands up onto the left thigh and breathe here for five deep breaths.
C. Bend the right knee, grab hold of the right foot and place it in the crook of the right elbow, then try to square hips to the front.
D. Bend the right elbow and reach the left hand back to clasp the right.
Stay here for at least five deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Make it easier: If you can’t reach your foot, use a hand towel or yoga strap in between your hands to work on your back flexibility without injury yourself.
Rather Than Holding Yourself In Your Deepest Stretch And Waiting For It To Be Over Try Moving Around Gently
If you hang out at the end of your range of motion, you can risk micro-tearing your connective tissue. Instead, focus on active stretching, or dynamic stretching, to become more flexible.
Let’s use the modified runner’s lunge example again, where you sit down with one heel tucked in, and one leg straight forward. Start by leaning back. Take a moment and get used to things here. Next try walking your hands to the right, and leaning into them, maybe even bringing a forearm down to the ground. Do the same thing on the left side.
Keep a slight bend in your knee and stay relaxed in your leg, so as you roll from right to left, your leg can roll around too. Sometimes your knee will face straight up, sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left. That’s OK! You want to let your body move naturally and do its own thing. If you find a good spot to linger and breathe, that’s your spot. Linger and breathe as long as you like.
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How Does Yoga Make You More Flexible
Yoga practice includes both static and dynamic stretching, and also breathwork all that helps to increase your flexibility.
Static stretching means that when you arrive in a pose, you stay there for a little while, allowing your muscles to release. In yoga poses, you always breathe deeply and this deepens the stretch. Its a much better approach than a quick post-workout stretch when you may be holding your breath for the few seconds you hold the position.;
Dynamic stretching means you move in the pose bouncing up and down or that you move into the pose and out of it repeatedly. Yoga practice includes these movements and also links them with the breath. As a result, youre more flexible, mobile and better at balancing!
One of the major effects of yoga is that it lowers your stress levels, tones down anxiety, and releases tension and thats also the last puzzle piece in how yoga improves your flexibility. Some of the mental tension we experience translates into physical tension. When we release it, our muscles are often able to stretch a little more.
Learn To Stretch The Right Way
First of all, youll have to learn how to stretch properly.
To do that, youll have to understand which parts of your body you can stretch, and which ones you shouldnt.
To apply that knowledge, you then have to learn some basic body awareness. This will help you avoid over stretching.
You dont want to pull anything and you dont want to become sore. That would actually make you less flexible!
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How To Be More Flexible
These simple moves will help you breathe deep, stand tall, and loosen up all over. You haven’t felt this good since you were doing cartwheels in the backyard.
Ever notice how at least one person dashes out of your fitness class before the cooldown session at the end? Those last-minute moves might seem optional, but they feel really good. And skipping them could be robbing your body of stretches that can keep it feeling good and looking younger longer. Flexibility training is one of the most ignored elements of most people’s exercise programs, but it’s one of the best ways to counteract the stiff joints that affect all of us over time, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Researchers in Brazil set out to study how our flexibility changes as we age. When you’re most bendy: age 7, according to their 2013 study, which appeared in the journal of the American Aging Association. After they hit second grade or so, women lose flexibility by an average of 0.6 percent a yearwith the sharpest decline coming after age 40. The great news is that you can do something about it. In fact, just 50 to 60 percent of flexibility loss was attributed to age. The rest was due to how you live your life.
So, yes, you’ll never turn back time to when you were hanging from the monkey bars at age 7. But regular stretching can keep you feeling young and limber. Zujko suggests the following moves to get you there.
Set Specific Goals And Let Them Be Your Motivation
What is the reason that you are trying to get more flexible? ;Is it because you want to do the splits? Is it because you saw this certain pose and just HAVE to be able to do it? ;Is it because you want to relieve your lower back pain?
Find your reason, and set that as your goal. ;Let it motivate you to get on your mat every day and stretch it out.
For me, the biggest goal I have had since starting yoga is to be able to do the splits. ;I am fairly tall, and VERY inflexible, especially in the hamstrings. ;I have to work at it EVERY DAY, but I do, because I want to get there and know that I can with practice!
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Reclined Big Toe Pose
Verywell / Ben Goldstein
Reclined Big Toe Pose is also called Supta Padangustasana. Using a yoga strap around your raised foot makes this pose accessible to even those with the tightest hamstrings . Let the head of your femur settle into the hip socket as you stretch the leg so that both hips stay grounded on the floor.
If Youre Going To Stretch Find A Position In Which You Could Sit And Comfortably Watch Tv
If your muscles are working hard to hold you up or keep you balanced while you’re trying to open those hamstrings, your body can remain strained and inflexible. If things are going to open up, your brain needs to believe everything is safe and easygoing, so put yourself in a position where you’d be happy sitting and watching TV for a while.
Take a runner’s lunge for example. If you’re having a tough time balancing with your hands on the ground, or it’s hard for you to sit on your back heel, find another way! Just sit down on the ground, left heel tucked in like you’re sitting cross-legged, and extend your right leg straight. Now, lean back, with your hands behind you. Get comfortable. Once you’re happy where you are, you have a good starting point.
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What Flexibility Is And Isnt
Flexibility is the ability of your muscles and other connective tissues to stretch temporarily.
Mobility is the ability of your joints to move freely through a range of motion in a pain-free way.
Part of good mobility is good flexibility. But being flexible doesnt mean your mobility is up to par, and vice versa.
Flexibility is just one piece of the mobility puzzle.
How Long Will It Take To Get Flexible
How long is a piece of string? There is no hard and fast answer to this as everyone and evry body is different. I would say, especially if youre a beginner, build up your practice slowly. You dont have to practice every day, or and you dont have to practice for an hour each time .
Start by trying to incorporate some stretches for 5-10 minutes a day and slowly build up. As time passes you will notice a difference and might want to increase your practice time and frequency.
When you are in a pose, I would suggest trying to hold each pose for 3-5 breaths or 30 seconds and increase this over time if you can.
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Health Benefits Of Yoga
The health benefits of yoga pose for flexibility are:Yoga for strength and flexibility increases the blood flow and warms up all the muscles. This helps to build strength in the body.A person who does the yoga asanas for flexibility will get relieved of backaches caused due to injuries and other health complications.Yoga to increase flexibility eases the symptoms of arthritis and swollen joints.Yoga exercises for flexibility benefit heart health as it reduces stress and inflammation in the body.Yoga for back flexibility helps a person get better sleep as a bad back is a primary cause of sleep interruptions.Yoga stretches for flexibility improve the mood and also provides more energy to the human system.Yoga for a flexible body enables mindful eating and brings in healthy eating habits. This, in turn, will help in losing weight.The best yoga for flexibility will provide a healing and supportive environment for an individual. It will help to fight loneliness.Yoga for weight loss and flexibility promotes self-care and also benefits balance issues in the body.
Tips To Get More Flexible Even When You Think You Can’t
You might think flexibility is fixedeither you’re born with flexible limbs, or you’re not. However, you can train your body to become more flexible; it just takes a little practice.
If youre looking to become more flexible in your body, here are eight tips that can make it easier than you ever thought possible.
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Work Out What Youre Trying To Achieve
Do you have a specific aim or target in mind? Like touching your toes, or bending backwards? Maybe you just want an overall feeling of more openness?
Set your goal or intention and document your journey so you can see how far you are getting.;Whatever you are aiming for, with practice you can get there.
How Do I Know That I Need To Stretch
Stretching is perhaps the most common type of flexibility training.
Over the years, I’ve met a ton of people who took up stretching classes because they were “too inflexible.”
My question was always the same: too inflexible for what? Too inflexible to move comfortably in your life? Or too inflexible to do splits?
Finding a solid reason behind our compulsive desire to stretch and push our bodies into suppleness is where any flexibility training should start.
I’ve talked about this in my post about the 30-Day Splits Challenge. In a nutshell, most of us can be divided into three camps.
Those who stretch religiously because they still believe that stretching helps with performance and saves you from injury .
Those who stretch because it’s common knowledge that we should lengthen the muscles after a workout and everybody does it. Fundamentally, they don’t know the reason.
And those who just like the challenge. The rush of pushing your body to its limit and checking how far that limit is. That’s where most of us yogis belong.
So I suggest that before throwing yourself into intensive stretching, ask yourself why you want to become more flexible? How important is it in your daily life?
An impressive example of active flexibility, aka mobility: great range of motion + muscle control over the movement. Though unless you’re a dancer or gymnast, you probably don’t need such skills in your daily life.
A good rule of the thumb would be to answer the following questions:
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Be Patient And Accept Yourself:
The first few years I was just focused on doing postures and breathing, but it wasnt until I started my home practice when I started to focus inwards and learned how to let go inside my body. It wasnt until years later when I started to understand the difference between pain, discomfort, and emotions in my body parts.
Accept where you are, and the feelings that youre having.;
Accepting yourself in this moment is what will make you more compassionate, empathetic, and loving towards others and that is yoga, my friend.
Thats part of the journey and process. The work is in observing your mind. You know this is a trigger, and your job is just to ask,
Whats the next step? How do I get past this? How can I let go of this trigger?
Just keep your curiosity and asking questions!
Remember Yoga Is More Than Touching Your Toes
Its normal to immediately picture someone doing a posture that requires insane flexibility, like putting your feet behind your head. But theres much more to it. Yoga helps you practice mindfulness, learn how to listen to your body, and reduce stress, just to name a few.
Each pose allows your body to sink, deeply stretching muscle fibers and loosening you up, says Chase. It takes time, but not as long as you may assume. Your body and mind simply have to make the connection. Start with a beginner class and then as you become stronger, transition to a more challenging class. There are all types of yoga, though. Try all different forms at a few studios to see which one speaks to you most.
The benefits of yoga are plentiful, but the key is always to find a style that works for youand Aaptiv has options. Head to the app to see them for yourself.
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Can You Get More Flexible By Doing Yoga: Science Says Yes
Guess what. Yoga doesn’t always do what people say it does.
Detoxification, better heart health, sounder sleep… I can go on forever.
The truth is that we often see a correlation between yoga and a particular issue, but we don’t really know if that was yoga that helped.
Flexibility as a result of yoga practice may seem like the most logical connection ever. Yet, until there’s a quality controlled study, even the most logical deductions will remain purely anecdotal.
I’ve researched over 30 studies on yoga to find the connection between yoga and increased range of motion.;Luckily, this turned out to be a pretty simple task.
Yoga does improve flexibility, and it’s not just a marketing fad.
If you’re a male well over your 30s, that relates to you too!
There’s bulletproof science-based evidence that yoga will make you more supple regardless of your gender or age.
If the nerd in you craves for proof, here it is.
Study 1.;A recent 2015 research summoned over 150 Chinese adults and divided them into two groups.
Those from the first group did one hour of Hatha yoga a week for three months. Participants from the other group in the meantime continued with their normal lives.
Well, guess what. Those who practiced yoga demonstrated greater flexibility in hamstrings, lower back, ankles, and spine. Besides, the yoga group increased their muscle strength and endurance. Win-win, right?
I know what you’re thinking now.
That’s a good question. And I’ve got an answer for you.