As a yoga instructor, I am blessed to be able to share such a positive, life-changing practice with people, on and off the mat. When I first started teaching yoga, it never really occurred to me how my practice would work its way into my life off the mat, but it has.
I’m frequently asked, “So what do you do for a living?” When I state that I teach yoga, I usually get many responses about how much yoga has made a difference in someone’s life and how much they love their practice, but occasionally I get the “yoga…I’m not flexible enough to do yoga” response.
I respond that for that reason alone they are perfect for yoga, as yoga creates flexibility, rather than flexibility creating yoga. While I find it sad that people think they have to be flexible in order to take a yoga class, I also understand where this impression comes from, because with the growth in the popularity of yoga, there has become more growth in the amount of celebrity yoga instructors and yoga models who can twist themselves into various pretzel poses.
How does yoga make me more flexible?
Just as a regular strength-training practice will make you stronger, a regular yoga practice will make you more flexible. Whether you are holding a Yin Yoga stretch for one to three minutes, gently stretching at the end of a power yoga class, or enjoying a range of short and deep stretches in a hatha yoga class, your connective tissues are being stretched a little further each time and your joints are being lubricated by synovial fluid, allowing the bones to gently move over each other.
How often should I do yoga to maintain this flexibility?
As with everything, there are many opinions on this topic. In my opinion, having a regular yoga practice once or twice a week is enough to see and maintain these results. However, if you are able to add more, I highly encourage five to seven times a week, with the caveat that if you practice power yoga, you mix in a little gentle yoga in between your power practice days.
Flexibility is great, but how does it really affect my day-to-day life?
Greater flexibility allows for a greater range of motion throughout your body. If you sit at a desk all day, your yoga practice will help your spine lengthen and your shoulders rest below your ears, creating greater posture and alleviating back pain. If you enjoy running, yoga will create more flexibility in your hip flexors and extensors, allowing a better stride and better posture, and reducing pressure on your knees.
As well as these physical examples of the flexibility yoga creates, there are many mental examples such as managing stress better, having a greater understanding of the mind/body connection to make the subtle changes where you hold tension in your body, and being aware of the role of your breath in everyday situations.
So, the next time you feel too inflexible to take a yoga class or you hear someone else say they are, remember that yoga creates flexibility, rather than flexibility creating yoga.