WYS#1 (Why Yoga Serie): Yoga Develops Flexibility 1/50

Because it develop flexibility.

During your first class, you probably won’t be able to touch your toes, never mind do a backbend. But if you stick with it, you’ll notice a gradual loosening, and eventually, seemingly impossible poses will become possible. You’ll also probably notice that aches and pains start to disappear. That’s no coincidence. Tight hips can strain the knee joint due to improper alignment of the thigh and shinbones. Tight hamstrings can lead to a flattening of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain. And inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue, such as fascia and ligaments, can cause poor posture.

But what is Flexibility? What does it mean?

Wikipedia write: «  Flexibilityor limbernessrefers to the range of movement in a joint or series of joints, and length in muscles that cross the joints to induce a bending movement or motion. Flexibility varies between individuals, particularly in terms of differences in muscle length of multi-joint muscles. Flexibility in some joints can be increased to a certain degree by exercise, with stretching a common exercise component to maintain or improve flexibility. Quality of life is enhanced by improving and maintaining a good range of motion in the joints. Overall flexibility should be developed with specific joint range of motion needs in mind as the individual joints vary from one to another. Loss of flexibility can be a predisposing factor for physical issues such as pain syndromes or balance disorders.

Sex, age, and genetics are important for range of motion. Exercise including stretching and yoga often improves flexibility. Many factors are taken into account when establishing personal flexibility: joint structure, ligaments, tendons, muscles, skin, tissue injury, fat (or adipose) tissue, body temperature, activity level, age and sex all influence an individual’s range of motion about a joint. Individual body flexibility level is measured and calculated by performing a sit and reach test, where the result is defined as personal flexibility score. » https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexibility_(anatomy)

Sadhguru said: « A muscle is useful only if it is flexible. Wherever the body wants 100% rigidity, it produced bones. Wherever it wants 75% rigidity, it produced tendons. Wherever it wants 50% rigidity, it produced cartilages. Wherever it wants total flexibility, it produced muscles. The body structure is made up of different levels of flexibility. If every part of the body was flexible, you would sit like a bean bag. Some parts of the body are rigid, some are semi-rigid, some are flexible – it is done in an intelligent manner. It should be kept the way the Creator intended it to be. A three-year-old child will be flexible enough to do any asana. You lost this flexibility because of disuse, because you are trying to save your body for the grave. You want to be in a good shape when you go, but you are not in a good shape when you are here. Read the all story here: http://isha.sadhguru.org/blog/yoga-meditation/demystifying-yoga/flexibility-asanas/

An article from Harvard Medical School give us some details:  Activities that lengthen and stretch muscles can help you prevent injuries, back pain, and balance problems. A well-stretched muscle more easily achieves its full range of motion. This improves athletic performance — imagine an easier, less restricted golf swing or tennis serve — and functional abilities, such as reaching, bending, or stooping during daily tasks. Stretching can also be a great way to get you moving in the morning or a way to relax after a long day. Activities such as yoga combine stretching and relaxation and also improve balance, a wonderful combination. However, note that experts no longer recommend stretching before exercise. Newer recommendations suggest that you start your workout routine with a warm-up, such as an easy walk or a sport-specific routine, such as serving some tennis balls and practicing ground strokes before a match. This gets blood and oxygen flowing to your muscles. After five to 10 minutes of warm-up, your muscles are warm and supple. This is a good time to stretch. You can even do your flexibility exercises as a post-workout cool-down. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/benefits-of-flexibility-exercises

If you are looking for ways to improve flexibility, yoga is possibly the most effective exercise to achieve this.

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Asanas to improve your Flexibility:

Hands to Feet (Uttanasana):

The name comes from the Sanskrit words
Ud  = prefix for verbs or nouns, indicating superiority in location, rank, power, intensity
Tana  = “stretched”
Uttana  = “intense stretch” or “straight” or “stretched”,
Asana  meaning “posture” or “seat”.
The asana consists of standing with feet together, then hinging forward from the hips, letting the head hang, with palms placed flat on the floor near the feet. The asana provides a complete stretch to the entire back of the body, particularly the hamstrings.
This is a classic and probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you want to show off your flexibility to someone. It really is a good way to train, stretch and strengthen your legs and spine.
Stand straight. Slowly raise your arms above your head as you inhale. Bend forward and reach for your toes. If you can, you can bend more until your abdomen touches your legs. Take deep breaths while holding the pose.
Paschimottanasana is a safer, sitting variant of this frontbend which relies more upon active flexibility of the muscles in its later stages. It is more difficult to attain similar flexibility since gravity cannot passively aid the stretch as much as in Uttanasana. Once the hands are able to bear more and more weight in Uttanasana it becomes safer and the difference in safety and customizability becomes less. Although it could be argued that Paschimottasana is not a safe forward bend for the back as the pelvis can become locked and tight hamstrings add excessive pull on lower back via pelvic sit bones. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uttanasana

Flexibility is essential to maximize your physical capabilities and to avoid injuries, not only when you do sports but also in every day life. All sorts of athletes and fitness enthusiasts that are searching for ways to improve flexibility have turned to yoga.

Downward-Facing Dog (Adho mukha śvānāsana):

The name comes from the Sanskrit words
Adhas  meaning ‘down’,
Mukha meaning ‘face’,
Svāna  ‘dog’,
Asana meaning ‘posture’ or ‘seat’.
The preparatory position is with the hands and knees on the floor, hands under the shoulders, fingers spread wide, knees under the hips and typically about seven inches (17 cm) apart, with the spine straightened and relaxed.
On a deep exhale, the hips are pushed toward the ceiling, the body forming an inverted V-shape. The back is straight with the front ribs tucked in. The legs are straight with the heels reaching to the floor. The hands are open like starfish, keeping the forefinger and thumb pressing down on the floor/mat. The arms are straight, with the inner elbows turning towards the ceiling. If one has the tendency to hyper extend elbows, keeping a microbend to the elbows prevents taking the weight in the joints. Turning the elbows up towards the ceiling will engage the triceps and build strength. The shoulders are wide and relaxed. Line up the ears with the inner arms which keeps the neck lengthened. The hands are shoulder width apart and feet remain hip-width apart. If the hamstrings are very strong or tight, the knees are bent to allow the spine to lengthen fully. The navel is drawn in towards the spine, keeping the core engaged.
The hips move up and back. Focus is on the breath while holding the asana, with deep, steady inhalation and exhalation creating a flow of energy through the body. On an exhale, the practitioner releases onto the hands and knees and rests in balasana. BKS Iyengar, one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world, asserts that this asana stretches the shoulders, legs, spine and whole body; builds strength throughout the body, particularly the arms, legs, and feet; relieves fatigue and rejuvenates the body; improves the immune system, digestion and blood flow to the sinuses, and calms the mind and lifts the spirits. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adho_mukha_śvānāsana

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