But I’m Not Flexible!

If you don’t feel your body is flexible, hot yoga is definitely what you need to be doing. Why? It’s simple. Hot yoga will improve your flexibility. Being flexible will keep you fit and healthy and significantly reduce your risk of injuries.

Flexibility refers to the range of movement you have at your joints, where two or more bones meet. Flexibility varies and is specific to your body composition, depending on all sorts of things like gender, the length of your muscles, the length of your arms and legs, and the amount and type of exercise you do.

There are two types of flexibility – static and dynamic. Static is limited by the structure of your bones and muscles and can be influenced by the size of the muscle and your muscle tone. Dynamic flexibility is the range of movement you can achieve when you are moving.

You may have different levels of flexibility at different joints: some people have great range of movement in their spine but limited flexibility in their ankles or shoulder joints, or vice versa. The key thing is to understand your strengths and the areas you need to improve.

Poor flexibility can increase your chances of being injured and that is why it is so important to work on this aspect of fitness as part of your exercise routine. Ironically, being too flexible can also increase your chances of injury.

Finding a great yoga teacher can help to make sure you are doing the right postures for your body. Your teacher can help you improve or maintain your flexibility in a safe and effective way. Practise regularly and you will soon see the benefits.

So the next time you hear yourself saying “I’m not flexible enough for yoga”, rephrase it to “I really need to find a great yoga teacher”. I firmly believe you won’t regret it!

As we always advise, please make sure you ask your health care professionals before you take up any new types of exercise.

And the All Time Classic Yoga Pose has to be…

Adho Mukha Svanasana

This classic yoga pose is fantastic for increasing your flexibility in your shoulders and hamstrings. One of the inversion poses, it’s also good for increasing the blood supply to your brain making this a very strengthening and invigorating pose.

There are a few adaptations you can make if this pose is too strong for you. It’s fine to bend the knees or you could opt for puppy dog pose, where you are kneeling. This takes some of the intensity of the pose away but keeps the super shoulder stretch. Your eye gaze (drishti) depends on where your heels are in this pose: if your heels are down, your eye gaze should be towards your navel; if your heels are lifted, your eye gaze is towards the back of the mat.

This pose often features in sun salutations as a key part of this dynamic, fluid, warm sequence of postures. It’s probably the pose that most people are familiar with since it energizes the body, helping to calm and focus the mind. You will feel an amazing stretch whilst you strengthen the arms and legs.

Some purists have specific ideas about the correct way to perform this pose but for us it is very much about listening to your body, finding that connection with movement, feeling the joy of exercise and being totally at one in the moment as you lift your hips up, straighten your legs and push your heels to the floor. With your palms pressing into the floor and your fingers spread you can allow your chest to move towards your thighs.

Remind yourself to be kind in your postures. Celebrate what you can do and don’t get caught up in the pursuit of the perfect posture: remember it’s about what is right for you at any given moment in time.

Adho Mukha Svanasana is a great way to get to know your body and find what works best for you. We always suggest that you allow an expert to help and guide your practise, taking into account your physical make up – the length of your long bones, the amount of flexibility at your joints, and the elasticity of your tendons and ligaments.

If you live in easy reach of our hot yoga studio in Lancashire, why not join us for a few sessions so we can help you make the most of your genetics?

Please consult your doctor before making changes to your lifestyle such as going on a diet or embarking on an exercise programme.

Camel

Ustrasana or Camel Pose is a fantastic pose that will strengthen your spine, engage your glutes and stretch your hamstrings. It will really increase your flexibility and mobility in your spine and prepare you for those deeper back bends.

While you’re learning, adapt this pose by tucking your toes under or using a block to support you. There’s no need to feel you need to go as far as I am: there are plenty of modifcations you can use to help develop your strength and flexibility.

Camel Pose is deeply energising. It creates space in the chest and allows you to really expand your lungs and increase your lung capacity. Make the most of this pose by breathing evenly and imagine the oxygen circulating round your body.

Swanning It Up!

The Swan Pose is fantastic for people who want to improve the flexibility in their hips and spine. The sanskrit name for this pose is Ek Pada Raja Kapotasana. This is a great example of the different styles of yoga you may meet as you explore the topic. In some styles, it’s called King Pigeon Pose because of the way it pushes the chest out. The emphasis might be slightly different, but once you are in pose it will feel very similar.

As always, there are many variations on this pose if you’d like to make it easier – or want more of a challenge!

To make it easier, adopt a 90:90 position with your legs. If that’s too demanding, use yoga blocks to support you. The best option is to work with a skilled teacher who can help you move though the variations. To challenge yourself more, reach behind for your ankle with one or both hands.

You’ll notice the eye gaze (drishti) is to the sky. Another way to make things less challenging in yoga is to alter your gaze – start by looking forward then shift your gaze as you feel more comfortable and ready to move on.

There’s so much you can do with this pose. To explore it in all its glory, head to your local yoga studio for expert advice and coaching to learn the progressions that are most suitable for your needs.

This pose not suitable for you? That may be the case if you have issues with your knees, hips or ankles – an excellent reason to discuss any health concerns with your yoga teacher. Try Eye of the Needle Pose (Sucirandhrasana) instead… pictures and post to follow!

Please consult your doctor before making changes to your lifestyle such as going on a diet or embarking on an exercise programme.

Yoga Your Way to a Healthy, Strong Spine!

Several years ago, I had a back injury and was diagnosed with a crumbling spine. I’ve always enjoyed exercise and have spent many years teaching in the fitness industry and training for my own enjoyment. As I lay on the trolley in Accident and Emergency I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without training and teaching.

It took quite a while for the pain to subside and during that time I had lots to reflect upon. Would it be the end of my career? Would I be in chronic pain all my life with reduced mobility?

I started to think about the things I enjoyed most – and got the most pleasure out of teaching. This was when the dream for my own yoga studio started to emerge.

Practising yoga has been my lifeline back to health, especially so in my hot yoga studio where flexibility is greatly enhanced in the hot environment. I’ve learned to manage my back injury, paying attention to the things that irritate it and the things that strengthen it. This raised awareness helps me demonstrate and teach at the level I do.

I’m not saying that yoga will work for everyone, but if you can find a great yoga teacher near you, you might be amazed, as I was, at the progress you can make and the reduction in pain it is possible to achieve. If you train with an expert who can quickly see exactly what you need to do and who will check your alignment in each posture, within weeks you will notice a difference.

The posture above is a seated twist or rotation called Ardha Matsyendrasana in Sanskrit or Half Lord of the Fishes Pose. It’s one of many great postures for energising the spine and increasing flexibility in the shoulders and neck. Traditionally this pose is thought to destroy deadly diseases and awaken the energy at the base of your spine.

Please consult your doctor before making changes to your lifestyle such as going on a diet or embarking on an exercise programme.