Yoga for Flexibility, Muscle Strength and Balance…Why Aren’t You Practicing? (Paulette Vasconcellos)
When most people think of going to a yoga class, they think they need to be flexible. I can’t tell you enough how many people will tell me that they could never take yoga, they’re not flexible enough. Well, see that’s the problem, in order to become flexible you need to stretch. Yes, there are some people who are just born flexible but most of us need to work on our flexibility daily. By increasing your flexibility you gain an increased range of motion in different joints. If you lack flexibility, for example, you have a greater chance at having lower back issues (because your hamstrings are too tight), or your knees might give you trouble because you don’t have enough flexibility in the hips The thing is, if you practice yoga over time, the tight areas begin to open up and the poses that once seemed impossible are possible.
If it’s been a while since you’ve taken part in any type of physical fitness you might find your muscles are pretty weak. Most people actually want to have muscles for aesthetic reasons, and why not, muscles exude health, right? Well, you’re in luck, yoga practice not only strengthens muscles, it does so in a functional way, by balancing strength with flexibility. In weight training, you isolate specific muscles as you perform an exercise. This leads to short, tightened muscles (so you‘re losing your flexibility). On the other hand, the muscles you develop in yoga class are more likely to be elongated; since as you are strengthening them, you are simultaneously lengthening them, which helps realign the muscles so that they are better balanced. You truly work your whole body when you practicing yoga. You’re not focusing on isolated muscles in yoga, but actively recruit smaller muscle groups too plus you are less likely to get injured since you’re not overworking any specific muscle group.
So we now know that flexibility will keep our spine and body feeling good and that muscle strength will help keep our body better balanced, but how does yoga improve our balance and why do we care? Regular yoga practice includes the mind and the body, helping us to coordinate our movements. Simple muscle building exercise usually just work on one plane of movement. Being balanced helps us stay centered which improves our fitness level—helping us to prevent falls and injuries, and improve focus and concentration. Better balance may not seem that exciting BUT when you think about falls as a leading cause of hip, knee and bone fractures which only bring about a loss of independence, why wouldn’t we want to work on our balance to remain independent and youthful. I don’t know about you, but I think keeping a flexible, strong, balanced mind and body is an essential and beautiful way to live a happy life. If you don’t practice yoga already, maybe you should give it a try and let me know your thoughts after you’ve practiced for at least one month. Whatever you do, begin and continue your yoga practice, because it truly will do your body (and mind) good.