Yoga Gratitude - # 3 - Flexibility & Strength

I'm Grateful to my Yoga Practice for...

 

Enhanced Functional Flexibility & Strength – Yoga has a good reputation – and rightfully so – for bringing flexibility. This reputation has confused some into thinking they are unable to try yoga because they aren't flexible to begin with - which is silly, of course. You wouldn't say "I would go to the gym but I'm far too weak." Or "I would go to the dentist, but my teeth are too dirty and in far too much pain."

 As a society, we don’t put much time, effort, and energy into stretching, let alone doing it properly. Many of us do not do it in groups, and those of us who do it alone often fail to spend a sufficient amount of time in our stretches. These are the reasons why our muscles feel tight - impeding mobility.

"Flexibility is a key component of physical health because a healthy body must move. And only a flexible body can safely move its spine and limbs in a full, wide, and healthy direction in all standard anatomical ranges of motion."

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In Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar says the proper commingling of strength and flexibility brings about a “lightness of limb.” Instead of gravity and the weight of our arms and legs pulling us down day after day, we are able to energize, float, feel airy and buoyant, light, and free. This sensation cannot come about by building strength alone. Flexibility is a key component of physical health because a healthy body must move. And only a flexible body can safely move its spine and limbs in a full, wide, and healthy direction in all standard anatomical ranges of motion. Flexibility allows for enhanced functional movement in many of my day-to-day tasks including dressing, bathing, driving, dancing, having sex, running, cycling, weight training, and wrestling. I feel my flexibility even helps me to sit and stand more properly. 

 

Stretching is not all we do in yoga. Many of the poses require tremendous strength to hold for 5-12 slow breaths. Examples include Plank and Forearm Plank Pose, Crescent Pose, Wheel, and the Warrior Poses (See Warrior II above).  When your muscles repeatedly work hard, enhanced strength will surely follow - especially when accompanied by optimal nutrition and adequate rest and recovery time. As your body repairs the micro-tears in your muscles following a strenuous practice, it subsequently reinforces those areas making them stronger and better prepared when they are called to perform again.  What may seem physically challenging or even impossible one day, may come within your grasp by regularly taking some time to work on becoming stronger. 

Strength without flexibility cannot move.

Flexibility without strength cannot move.

Only by cultivating both can we enhance our mobility, agility, freedom, and physical capacity. 

I was once a 225lb muscle bound Marine with strength to spare. But this surplus in strength came about through a subsequent sacrifice of mobility. My yoga practice has patiently cultivated my flexibility to ever greater depths and I don't feel limited in any of my activities. Sure, I could once again beef up, but I don't find the value in losing these new found mobility gains for impractical strength gains. Once you have both, just one is no longer sufficient.  I am both strong and sturdy, yet limber and lithe - and I have yoga to thank for that. 

Yoga Gratitude Continued...

#1 - Strong & Capable Knees

#2 - Dietary Changes

#4 - A Strong Heart

#5 - Emotional Stability

#6 - Heightened Creativity