Yoga exercises involve a lot of controlled and progressive stretching, but does yoga help you become more flexible? Stay to find the answer!
Simply! YES, of course! Improved flexibility is one of Yoga’s foremost gifts.
That’s because yoga exercises involve a lot of controlled and progressive stretching which helps improve flexibility as well as mobility. With regular stretching comes gradual loosening of muscles and connective tissues that surround your bones and joints. But that’s not all!
Yoga works your joints by taking them through their entire range of motion so as to squeeze, stimulate and lubricate those areas of articular cartilage that are rarely used or not used at all. This allows the inactive parts of joint cartilage to absorb essential nutrients, and fresh oxygen and blood without which they’ll wear out and eventually expose the underlying bone resulting in conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis and chronic pain.
Yoga may prevent all of this since it also helps build muscles and muscle strength along with enhancing your balance and flexibility. We’ll talk about that in a short while but first let’s understand what flexibility is and how it differs from mobility so as to avoid any confusion.
What’s the difference between Flexibility and Mobility?
Flexibility refers to the elasticity of soft tissues that cross or surround the joints including muscles, tendons, fascia, articular capsule, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels and skin. Frictionless flexibility is absolutely necessary for joint integrity as well as painless movement of the body.
Mobility on the other hand refers to the ability of moving different parts of your body through their existing range of motion for a functional or daily activity.
In other words, flexibility is the ability to extend and stretch muscles and other soft tissues that surround a joint for e.g. hamstrings, whereas mobility is how joints and associated structures move like the hip joint.
In terms of yoga, flexibility can be defined as how far a joint can move or quite simply as the range of motion. However, mobility is the ability to initiate, control, or maintain active movements of the body within the existing range of a stretched position.
Flexibility is the ability to extend and stretch muscles and other soft tissues that surround a join.
So, what causes the stiffness of joints and lack of flexibility?
Well, there are a number of reasons for reduced range of motion starting with muscle shortness which mainly occurs due to lack of physical labor.
Physical inactivity is certainly one of the major reasons for loss of natural body flexibility. But incorrect or irregular use and excessive pressure can also compromise the elasticity of your muscles and other soft tissues.
Muscle shortness typically impacts the tonic muscles that are mainly responsible for maintaining your posture. Whereas incorrect or excessive pressure affects your phasic muscles which are involved in carrying functional movements for day-to-day activities.
In any case, both these muscles groups can affect each other. For instance, shortening of tonic muscles can weaken your phasic muscles and vice versa. So, you need to have a balanced and coordinated action of both muscle groups so as to maintain a smooth functioning of your musculoskeletal system.
And that’s where the physical practice of yoga, which is more holistic than any other exercise, comes into picture. Let’s take a closer look.
Yoga for flexibility
Yoga differs from other types of workouts mainly because it engages your whole-body including mind, body, emotions and breath as one, rather than treating them separately.
Physical postures, also known as yoga asanas, engage all the targeted and supporting muscle groups to create the much-needed tension in the stiff and inactive laying areas around your bones and joints.
Stretching, which is known to improve flexibility is an integral part of yoga. Yoga stretching is progressive and more like resistance stretching in which it starts at the shortest point and relaxes at the longest point while using your own body to resist the stretch.
This allows the contraction and lengthening of muscles and tissues simultaneously to improve both strength and flexibility.
There are many kinds of yoga and almost all of them can help you improve your flexibility.
Hatha Yoga is one of the most popular styles among modern yogis. It’s a well-balanced style that gives importance to physical fitness while being accessible to every person, regardless of their level.
In other words, hatha yoga is a dynamic balance between strength and flexibility making it the perfect workout routine to improve your flexibility.
Yoga stretching is progressive and more like resistance stretching in which it starts at the shortest point and relaxes at the longest point.