Do you ever hear people saying that it’s important to stay flexible? I hear it a lot in relation to yoga classes and it’s often the thing that puts people off from coming. People thinking that they’re not flexible enough to do yoga. Well, let me tell you why it’s better to mobile than flexible.
People think that a yoga class is all about stretching.
Well, guess what? Flexibility is overrated and I think you are much better to focus on being mobile. What I mean by mobile is keeping your joints mobile so they continue to move in all of the ways they can for as long as possible.
I’m not sure where it all stems from, but the term flexible has been used too freely that we all now feel that flexibility is the thing that’s going to keep us feeling young.
What is going to keep you feeling young is being strong and mobile and that’s exactly why I focus on this when I teach yoga.
When I first trained to be a yoga teacher I followed a traditional path which focused more on flexibility. It was all about opening the hips and being adjusted to ‘get further’ into a pose. But what’s that all for?
I’ve continued to expand my learning and I now focus on muscle strength and range of motion. Yoga should be a tool to keep healthy rather than a goal of achieving particular poses.
Flexibility is just vanity really. It might look nice if we can stretch really far but does it feel nice?
So how about we do a deal. Let’s forget about being flexible and work on being mobile. Mobility is less about how it looks but more about the experience of how it feels. Working with your body instead of pushing against it. It’s less about opening hips or hearts it’s more about mindful movements that are safe for our bodies. It’s moving our bodies a little bit, every day. Let’s focus on making 10% changes. If our goal is to be stronger or more able to balance, let’s do that a bit at a time. Each day you make time to move is a day well spent.
Our bodies can move fast or slow, they can twist and bend. They can jiggle, wiggle and be still too. Enjoy moving your body in lots of different ways and you’ll be helping it to stay young and healthy.
How does that sound, do we have a deal?
Read more about my approach to teaching yoga and movement
All too often I hear people saying ‘you should do yoga, it’s good for you’. People are being told by their doctors or physios to ‘do yoga’ as a way to help with all sorts of sports injuries and back problems.
My concern with this advice is that it’s way too broad.
I’ve been practising yoga for years, trying out different classes and different styles of yoga. I found I was drawn to classes that provided lots of opportunity to stretch as I was naturally flexible. I enjoyed the feeling of ‘letting go’ in a pose. But the next day I’d be in pain. Proper pain which needed painkillers to help me manage it. I couldn’t understand it. Surely it wasn’t the yoga that was causing this because all yoga is good for you. Isn’t it? Yoga just has this image of being the perfect answer to all our problems.
This kept happening and for a while I stopped practising. No matter which class or style I was attending, I just experienced pains the next day. Or sometimes during class. I often found my wrists just couldn’t cope with any weight bearing or that my shoulders would ache so bad if I held my arms up. I started to think that maybe yoga wasn’t good for me after all so it was better to stop.
But that didn’t feel right either because I loved my time on the mat, the philosophy and opportunity to re-connect with your own self.
It was when I embarked on my training to be a pelvic floor specialist that I began to find the reasons for my pain and discomfort.
Here’s what was happening for me…
I’m hyper mobile so I have a tendency to be really flexible in many of my joints. Because of this flexibility there is very little opportunity to build strength in my muscles – especially if I let my body relax down into a pose as far as it can go. I was enjoying the momentary stretchy feeling and paying for it later. And I hate to admit it but I was letting my ego take control as I enjoyed achieving all these advanced stretches.
By learning more about the science of movement, human anatomy and importance of building strength and stability rather than flexibility I started to be able to change how I practiced each pose.
I’ve been on quite a ‘movement’ journey over the last 2 years, learning from movement educators all around the globe! Learning about biomechanics, barefoot shoes and dangers of sitting too much!!
I’ve changed how I practice on the mat because I now know what’s good for my body. So in answer to my own question, ‘is yoga always good for you?’ my simple answer is no. But also yes – if you know how to move your body and adapt the poses to suit you!
Group classes vs 1-2-1
I love group yoga classes for the opportunity to practice together and build a community. My only concern is that if you’re only ever practising in a group, that you may not be practicing the poses in a way that will help you to be strong and mobile. You may be trying to achieve a range of movement that’s just not possible for your body right now or over stretching like I was!
Recently, I’ve been working with women in small group classes to help them find more ease and comfort in their yoga practice. Working 1-2-1 or even in a small group gives me the opportunity to assess how your body moves. Together we can work out when to use props to support the body and where to place your body so that you can benefit from the practice.
By deconstructing your current practice we can re-build a stronger version that will ensure you’re practicing in a safe and sustainable way.
If you’d like support to help refine your yoga poses then get in touch about my 1-2-1 yoga coaching.
You might also be interested in reading how private yoga can help your aches and pains
Yoga is holistic. It incorporates your mind and body into a practice that benefits your whole wellbeing. And because of this union of mind and body it provides a perfect tool for working on your pelvic floor health.
By learning how to stand, move, stretch, relax and breathe correctly you can help your pelvic floor to function well again.
Your pelvic floor is affected by the way you use your body and if we are anxious or stressed, our mind becomes a component of how well your pelvic floor functions.
Ever had that nervous or scared feeling and needed the toilet? Was that not your mind creating a response in your body? Yes, it was.
So yoga, as a practice of mind and body, is the perfect combination of physical and mental work that will help the health of your pelvic floor.
Here’s how it works (in a nutshell of course):
On a physical level
Work begins with your feet. Moving up the through the body it’s important to focus on alignment of how you stand. Basically, we learn to stack the bones on top of each other, placing them in the best position for your internal body to work well. There’s lots going on inside your abdomen, chest and pelvic areas so we start by learning to stand in the optimum position. Now that may sound bizarre because you’d like to think we should already know how to stand correctly. But the day to day actions of our regular life changes the way our body moves and stands. One prime and pertinent example is how we hold a child on our hips/waist. In this position the pelvis most likely tilts under and the hip juts out in order to hold them. How many times a day are you in this position? Over time, your body will adapt to this position and begin to feel that this is the new normal. When your pelvis is tucked your pelvic floor is not working correctly, it simply isn’t in the right position to be most effective.
It becomes a process of making small changes to our alignment through the practice of exercises and yoga poses, so that your body learns new and healthy ways of moving and being.
In a yoga class we work on these small movements overtime. We align and then we build strength. We also learn techniques to release tension in tight areas.
Working on the mind
In yoga we practice mindfulness. Which is just a way of saying we learn to pay attention, to the present and to ourselves. By learning mindfulness we learn how to tune in to our body’s needs. We learn the art of relaxation and we’re better able to know when we need time to restore.
If you’re someone who suffers with stress or anxiety, this could be the main factor that’s affecting your pelvic floor (and maybe other ailments too.) So by learning to breathe and relax you’re helping the health of your pelvic floor.
I love that yoga is a framework for all of this work – mind, body, strength and relaxation.
Your wellbeing in an ongoing journey and needs your commitment to make the difference.
Are you ready to make that difference?