I’m Going to Yoga….Why Am I Not More Flexible?…

I’m Going to Yoga….Why Am I Not More Flexible?

You may have started yoga because you want to become more flexible. And after a few months, you probably found improvement. After awhile though, you may have plateaued and wondered why you’re not in the splits yet. While yoga is awesome for flexibility and mobility, if you have specific stretching goals, you might need to tweak your routine and incorporate flexibility training.

SEE ALSO: 6 Reasons To Do Yoga At Home

Set a Timer. Seriously.

Flexibility gains come from training your parasympathetic nervous system. This is your rest and digest system, where your brain tells your body it’s okay, let go, it’s safe to loosen up. A regular vinyasa class is great for mobility, but if you’re serious about increasing flexibility, you need to have a specific plan, which includes LONG, DEEP HOLDS. 2-5minute holds per side. Yes, you read that right, get a timer. You’ll need to set it for 2 minutes, then everyday, meet or beat your last hold time. So if you’re doing a forward fold, set the timer for 2 minutes. Tomorrow set it for 2 minutes 10 seconds. 5 days a week. This consistency trains your mind and muscles.

Breathe

Using your breath helps in flexibility training. While you’re in your pose for 2-5 minutes, try these techniques:

Inhale – FLEX, Exhale – SOFTEN

On your inhale, flex, squeeze, tighten your muscles. On the exhale, let them soften, melt and release. Inhale, engage. Exhale, release. The entire time you’re in the pose use flex/engage and soften/release breath. Inhale for the count of 4, Exhale for the count of 8. In this technique, plan on doubling your exhale. If you inhale for the count of 4, exhale for the count of 8. If you inhale for 6, exhale for 12. Focusing on your breath helps keep the mind focused. The lengthened exhale helps your body and mind release.

Flexibility Training

Your regular yoga practice will continue to bring great benefits to your body and mind. Adding flexibility training to the end of your workout, or end to your day, will bring great results. Grab a timer, take a breath, and relax into that exhale.

Enjoy!

Flexibility Protocol

Below is a sample flexibility training you could do to supplement your yoga practice or workout. Feel free to substitute poses with poses you’re working to improve flexibility on. And remember, long deep holds are the key.

10-25 minutes

STANDING FORWARD FOLD

(2-5 minute hold. Start with 2 minutes and add 10 seconds each day)

*Standing with legs hip width apart, fold forward reaching towards the ground. Think about lifting the hips up, drawing in the low belly and relaxing the upper body, head and neck down. 

LESS INTENSE: Variation 1: f the hamstrings are super tight, keep a slight bend to you knee. You can reach forward and place your hands on a basketball, or block, or hold onto your elbows. Your hands can also come to a wall, moving your chest down and sending hips back.

Variation 2: If the hamstrings are tight, you may also consider having both legs straight and not bending down as far. This will help lengthen the muscle fibers at the top of the hamstrings where they connect to pelvic bone. Most people constantly bend the knees to compensate, and never give the top of the hamstrings the opportunity to lengthen. 

MORE INTENSE: Keep drawing the belly button in toward spine, lifting the hips up and shifting your weight more towards the balls of your feet. You can hold onto you big toes, tuck your hands underneath your feet (gorilla pose), or reach behind and hold your ankles. You can also face a wall and move into your forward fold, lean forward and use the wall to support your back as you lean forward and down. (the wall will be on your back)

LUNGE

(2-5 minute hold, each side. Start with 2 minutes and add 10 seconds each day)

High or low lunge. For low lunge, place back knee down on the ground as front knee is bent. Keep front knee over ankle and always behind the toes. Hands can be on the ground, on your thigh, reaching up or leaning back. Repeat both sides.

REVERSE PIGEON

(2-5 minute hold, each side. Start with 2 minutes and add 10 seconds each day)

Lying on your back, bend knees, bring right heel over left knee. Reach right hand in between legs and interlace your hands on the back of the hamstring. Pull knee toward chest as you relax head and back onto mat. Hold. Repeat both sides.

*Variations – Place left foot right up against a wall and push with your foot into the wall, while using elbow to open up right knee.

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