Flexibility is often judged by a person’s ability to touch their toes, or something as advanced as performing an oversplit. However, the fast paced lifestyle, late office hours and jobs that leave one sitting for elongated periods of time have resulted in neglecting flexibility. So how can one improve their flexibility?
Flexibility is the body’s ability to perform a specific movement, just as any other exercise. Unlike strength, flexibility focuses more on the stretching aspect, such as holding a yoga asana or a challenging pose for extended period of time. It can only be developed to a certain extent in everyone, and older people should take further precautions to prevent injury while stretching. Joint stiffness is one of the most common restrictions to disappear with frequent stretching. This occurs, as regular practice can lead to better range of motion in the joints which also aid in flexibility.
Types of Stretching
Not all stretches are the same. There are two types of stretches that have various functions.
Static Stretches are holds that can be held for a period of over 30 seconds, such as a forward bend. It requires a great deal of strength which can be developed through regular practice of yoga, or including one day for joint mobility and flexibility alone, which can help in developing the tolerance to hold the stretch. These stretches are performed as part of a warm-up and a cooldown.
Dynamic stretches are movements that engage the joint’s complete range of motion. They are typically not held, or only at the point where the stretch is felt. They can be incorporated as part of a warm-up routine. This helps in reducing risk of injury and promoting blood and oxygen flow throughout the body.
How does yoga help with flexibility and stretching?
Yoga is one of the best lifestyle changes one can make. It not only encompasses asanas and meditation but revolves around lifestyle habits and adapting to a simpler, holistic way of living. When it comes to stretching, yoga asanas are static stretches that are performed regularly for extended periods of time, making them static stretches. Yoga instructors follow a well structured warm up routine which help them in avoiding injury or stress to the joints, and regularly practicing holds and other asanas help in developing joint mobility, flexibility and strength.
Common tips to remember
Just with any other exercise, stretching also comes with its own set of precaution. Here are a few things to know.
- Never force a stretch: It might be difficult at first and some may even feel like they are unable to perform the basics right. However, flexibility, just like strength always comes with patience. It is important to listen to the body and never force a stretch just for the sake of doing it.
- Stretch every hour or two: Be it home or an office, being sedentary for extended periods of time does harm to the body. Especially desk jobs that lead the posture to slouch at the back and shoulders. Performing a light dynamic stretch for a minute or two at every hour or walking around and consciously sitting straight can help in improving spine health.
- Accepting the limitations: Every person has a different body, thus it is important to not get discouraged if the body hits a limitation soon. Constant practice and guidance of a yoga instructor can help in improving and understanding the body’s limits better.
Flexibility is not simply limited to people performing yoga but for everyone. From runners to even bodybuilders, flexibility makes up an important part of overall fitness and should thus not be neglected. Even one of bodybuilding’s greatest legends Ronnie Coleman performed a front split on stage, despite having one of the biggest physiques in sports.