Want to feel better? Become more flexible! Try these 7 yoga poses for flexibility with easy-to-follow video tutorials.
Why is Flexibility Important?
Flexibility is an important component of physical fitness and has many positive effects on the body. It improves mobility, posture, and muscle coordination, and reduces the risk of injuries and muscle soreness. Flexibility is the ability of a joint or several joints to move freely through a full range of motion, without pain, without restriction. It is necessary for maintaining joint mobility. Without joint flexibility, the range of motion will be influenced by the mobility of the soft tissues that surround the joint. These soft tissues include muscles, ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, and skin. A lack of stretching, especially when combined with inactivity can lead to fatigue-induced soft tissue shortening over time.
About Joint Health
Joints require a full range of motion movement to maintain healthy joints and the surrounding cartilage. Through movement, there is an increase in blood supply and nutrients to joint structures with an increased quantity of synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is a clear, viscous liquid that lubricates the joints and keeps them moving. Inflexible muscles fatigue more quickly, causing opposing muscle groups to work harder. Muscle fatigue can lead to injuries and the inability of the muscles to protect joints from more severe injuries.
Flexibility and Aging
As we move toward the end of the cycle of life, our bodies have a tendency to degenerate. The skin’s elasticity, muscle tone, and bone density all decline as part of the natural aging process. Our ligaments and tendons become more rigid due to reduced water and elastin content and changes in collagen fibers. As a result, joints become less mobile. So yes, reduced flexibility is a real effect of aging due to the physical changes occurring within the body. But, many age-related changes are due to being sedentary. You’ve heard it before and you’re about to hear it again – Use it or lose it! Being sedentary accelerates the aging process.
Yoga for Flexibility
In addition to physical flexibility, stretching also increases our mental flexibility. Using yoga poses to stretch our bodies relieves built-up tension and anxiety leaving us feeling relaxed and calm. After practicing through these 7 yoga poses for flexibility – Bow, Cobra, Pyramid, Seated Forward Fold, Warrior I, Wide Leg Forward Fold & Yogi Squat – you will have a sense of relaxation, as the tension has just been rung out of you. It’s one of the reasons why we keep coming back to our yoga practice over and over again. Yoga really is a cleansing, a detox.
Importance of Balance
Flexibility is one leg of the triad of key components of fitness. Balance & Strength are the other two. Together our levels of flexibility, balance, and strength are markers of our quality of life.
Sprains and bone breaks are often caused by a lack of balance. Regardless of your age, balance can be learned, challenged, and improved upon. According to the CDC, the most common cause of injury and death in older people in the U.S. is falling. And bone breaks due to falls often mean the end of independence later in life. This is literally shaving off otherwise vibrant years from people’s lives. Enhancing your balance system will improve your postural endurance, control, and awareness; reduce your risk of injury, and ensure that you can remain active for the long haul. In addition to keeping our bones healthy through nutrition, maintaining a strong sense of balance is key to protecting oneself from injurious falls and breaks. Yoga and Thai Chi are a couple of the most effective modalities for improving balance. For building confidence and balance practice standing yoga poses.
Strength is Key
Without strength training, the average person loses 25% of their strength between the ages of 30 – 75. That’s a lot!! So what is strength training? It doesn’t necessarily mean lifting weights in the gym, although that is a great option. If you prefer to do your own thing at home, you can opt for small hand weights, resistance bands, and/or bodyweight exercises. Work out on your own, mix it up, and have fun with friends and family. Yoga is a bodyweight exercise as it creates resistance against gravity. So using yoga as a body-weight exercise is intelligent and effective.
Jules Mitchell, featured in the above two videos, is an educator specializing in teaching yoga instructors the biomechanics of yoga. These studies will help you understand topics such as safety, injury, stretching, pain science, and more. Learn more about Jules and further your education of yoga in a whole new and exciting way.