How Does Yoga Improve Flexibility?
Practicing yoga and flexibility are often associated with each other and there are plenty of benefits of being flexible, as outlined below.
Yoga poses can help to enhance flexibility as the body is encouraged to hold yoga stretches for a period of time, allowing muscles to go deeper into the stretch. It may sometimes be uncomfortable, and can take time to notice the impact of the stretches and greater flexibility.
Yin yoga often holds poses for longer so that the deeper tissues such as fascia, joints and tendons feel the positive effect of the stretches. Holding the yin yoga poses also requires a greater mental focus and continued breathing. Therefore having the aim to improve flexibility will have the positive effect of enhancing the levels of concentration and focus for longer periods of time.
Vinyasa flow yoga is great for flexibility as well. The poses are linked together to be more dynamic, which warms the muscles up, allowing for deeper stretching. The poses are not held as long as the Yin yoga but can be held for longer to deepen the stretch.
What Are The Benefits Of Improved Flexibility?
Contrary to what you may see on social media (not ours) the biggest benefits of being flexible are not so that you can take photos of unachievable photos on Instagram. There are genuine benefits:
- Reduce the chance of getting injured as your body has a greater range of motion
- Yoga stretches enhance flexibility that can help improve posture
- Yoga poses that stretch the body can help create a positive state of mind
Yoga Poses For Flexibility
The starting point for enhancing flexibility, would be to focus on a muscle group or joint that may have limited or restricted range of movement. The yoga poses below can help improve the range of movement and also the flexibility of that muscle group.
These stretches are a gentle way to introduce yoga to beginners, whilst also being relevant for skiers and runners as well as all other sporting activities. Be patient with your body – it will take time for the stretches to enhance your overall flexibility. Hold each yoga pose for around 5 breaths to allow the muscles to gradually grow into the pose.
- Padangusthasana / Standing bound forward fold pose – stretching tight hamstrings and lower back by holding the big to with your index finger and thumb. As start your yoga practice, a modfication is to bend the knees – as in the photo. Progress by straightening the legs to point that is comfortable, in this mainly static stretch.
- Baddha Konasana / Opening the hips, encouraging your knees to lower towards the floor. Keep your back straight and gaze to the tips of your toes. To go deeper let the elbows push gently into the inner thighs to deepen the stretch and loosen tight hips.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward facing dog – Ground through the palms of the hands and knuckles and push the tail bone up to lengthen the torso. At the same time lower heals towards the floor. Straighten the legs to stretch hamstrings and calves. Look to your toes.
- Utthita Trikonasana / Triangle pose – combining a hip and chest opener with hamstring stretch. Reach top hand high to lengthen side body, bottom hand rests on front ankle or shin. Chest opens to the side.
Why Do Yoga To Improve Your Balance?
Improved balance can have a positive effect on both your long term health as well as any potential sporting activities. Balances are useful yoga stretches that ensures the core is fully engaged and active. Controlled breathing and focused concentration also help to maintain the yoga pose you are holding.
We tend to find that balances are an indication of a student’s focus at that time. When the mind gets distracted more often than not the person’s balance tends to falter; that is of course fine – just reset and rejoin whenever ready.
Yoga stretches to improve balance
- Urdhva Hastasana / Upward salute – raise arms overhead and gaze to the thumbs whilst lengthening torso
- Vrkasana / Tree pose- placing foot on either ankle, calf or inner thigh. Look forward to the tip of your nose place hands together
- Eka Pada Utkatasana / One legged chair pose – place ankle onto opposite knee. Bend grounded leg, keeping gaze forward, arms raised. Opens hip and builds strengthens glute in grounded leg.
- Virabhadrasana / Warrior 3 – ground and straighten one leg, as opposite extends towards back of the mat, toes pointing to the floor. Hands can be in prayer beneath the chest, reaching to the back foot or reaching forward