“Why I Don’t ‘Stretch’ Anymore”

Senior Yoga Medicine instructor Rachel Land created our Yoga for Flexibility Challenge however explains why it’s not all about about “stretching.”

Like many yoga academics, I’ve been fairly versatile my entire life. Not versatile within the “tuck both feet behind the head” sense, however I’ve all the time needed to work more durable on creating strength and stability than on increasing my range of motion. In reality, I discover that deep static stretches at my finish vary can truly create joint stiffness, even ache, the subsequent day.

For that purpose, I’ve primarily stopped “stretching.” Which doesn’t imply that I purely work power. Instead, the gentler aspect of my follow focuses, not on flexibility for its personal sake, however on these three goals:

See additionally Yoga for Flexibility Challenge: 5 Ways to Target Tight Spots on the Mat

1. Maintaining mobility

Like most of us, I get up within the morning feeling a bit stiff. Part of the rationale for morning stiffness is that our fascia tends to dehydrate in a single day, turning into extra strong and fewer gel-like in its construction. Smooth, gliding actions really feel nice to encourage these sliding surfaces to maneuver extra freely, to interrupt up mild adhesions between tissue layers, and to heat and lubricate joints. My morning apply typically begins with mild circulate to release restriction and open up my regular vary of movement. I like joint rotation, rippling between Cat and Cow, flowing twists, and side bends.

See additionally How “Fit” Is Your Fascia?

2. Balancing vary of movement

Over years of yoga follow, I’ve observed that sure areas are simpler for me to maneuver into than others. For instance, I can fold ahead into Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Upavistha Konasana) with little or no preparation, however sitting in Hero Pose (Virasana) is difficult for me regardless of the place I am in my follow. It’s straightforward for my hips to externally rotate, so to stability that I make sure that every apply consists of poses that require inner hip rotation like Warrior III and Crescent Lunge. My left hamstring is noticeably tighter than my proper, so I often follow uneven poses that solely lengthen the left leg like Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana) and Head-to-Knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana). We all have these imbalances, so it’s useful to make use of our follow time strategically to equalize pressure round our joints and to stability left and proper sides, relatively than making an attempt to deepen into poses that naturally come straightforward.

See additionally Not ALL Hips Need Opening: 3 Moves for Hip Stability

three. Releasing pressure

When we get caught in the identical place or motion sample our muscle tissues and fascia are likely to tighten up round that form. Think about how you are feeling whenever you get up after sitting for hours on the pc or after an extended drive. The physique intends this modification to be useful, to scale back the trouble required to carry a place, however the finish result’s a sense of stiffness, decreased vary of movement, and probably restricted blood and lymphatic circulate. I’ve discovered mild, long-held stretches (particularly supported on props) and myofascial release with tennis or therapeutic massage balls very useful in unraveling postural pressure. When I can, I end the day with a few these type of restorative poses to launch the strain of the day, even when it means doing them when I get into mattress. For instance, mendacity down with a small pillow or rolled hand towel beneath my mid-back (at bra strap line) feels nice to dissolve pressure within the chest and the entrance of the shoulders. A reclined single-knee twist with a pillow propping my knee is a restful approach to unwind muscular habits across the backbone. The key right here is to search for a sense of launch or rest, somewhat than a stretching sensation.

With this strategy, I might by no means have the ability to tuck my ft behind my head, however hopefully I will take pleasure in a healthy and balanced physique for a few years to return.

See additionally The Anatomy of Fascia—& What It Can Tell Us About How to Practice

About Our Expert
Rachel Land works internationally as a Yoga Medicine educating assistant, and for the remainder of the yr teaches vinyasa, yin, and one-on-one yoga periods in Queenstown, New Zealand. Rachel’s curiosity in anatomy lead her to a 500-hour instructor training with Tiffany Cruikshank and Yoga Medicine. She is at present working towards her 1000-hour certification.

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