I don’t regret growing older. It’s taken me sometime to gain the wisdom, patience and self esteem I feel I currently possess. The one thing I wish I also worked on was maintaining my flexibility. My body thinks nothing about reminding me of my age with each bend and stretch but that doesn’t mean adding flexibility is out of reach.
No surprise, flexibility is just one of the many physical and mental benefits to practicing yoga but if you’re like me, starting any new practice can be intimidating. Just peek in any yoga studio or follow practitioners on Instagram and you can easily talk yourself out of the activity before you even step on your yoga mat. I think that’s why I love this quote from Michelle Finerty on Overcoming the Fear of Yoga:
“Yoga increases flexibility; it doesn’t require flexibility….Yoga isn’t about the perfect position or being able to do the latest Instagram pretzel pose. Yoga is about helping you touch your toes and enjoy the journey there.”
The Benefits of Yoga
Of course starting yoga doesn’t mean you have to put yourself out there in the middle of a class full of flexible bodies. It’s something you can practice right at home, in your space, on your schedule (though there are benefits to having guidance from a teacher). I’ve been trying to address my own health as a guide for my kids but also as a benefit to me. For me, home is a safe place where I can give myself permission to fail. Allowing yourself to fail without prejudice also encourages persistence and that’s the only way something can grow into a practice.
Props for Flexibility
Yoga doesn’t require you to stock-up on a whole closet full of tools and toys though I have discovered the benefits to incorporating props:
- Yoga Mat gives me stability. It’s like a grounding point connecting me like a root. Yes, it also stops me from slipping and gives me an island to focus on.
- Yoga Strap helps me to ease into a stretch and pose. It can be discouraging that my fingers don’t touch when I reach them behind my back or that I can no longer touch my nose to my legs. The straps help me to look beyond what I can’t do and work my way into these poses, a bit at a time.
- Yoga Block like the strap enable me to hold a pose longer or ensure I’m lining my body up correctly. Working on flexibility can be a challenge when I also have issues with balance. The block means I can work on a pose position even if I can’t yet master the balance.
Six Poses for Flexibility
So with a focus and the tools to help, the question is where to begin. I’ve been trying these 6 poses to help. I may not move fluidly or look graceful in these photos but I’m sharing them as a reminder of that everyone has a starting place. The reason for adding yoga into my routine is not for an instagram moment but to help my body:
Wide-Legged Forward Bend can help stretch the inner and back legs as well as your spine. This is a great pose to use the yoga block to rest your hands as you start this pose. If you have a little more flexibility, you can rest your head on the block should you not yet be able to touch your head to the ground. See full instructions.
Extended Triangle Pose stretches your thighs, knees and ankles but also your hips, groin, shoulder and chest. It’s also a post that looks simple but can be a challenge if you struggle with balance. Using a block to rest your hand on can help though I’m not even that flexible yet. See full instructions.
Downward Facing Dog is a pose you may hear others reference. It not only can stretch and strengthen your arms and legs, it can help energize your body. Yoga blocks can also be used if aren’t able to reach the floor completely. See full instructions.
Cow Pose is a back bend pose that helps stretch your front torso and neck. Compliment it with the Cat Pose to stretch your back torso and neck. See full instructions here and here.
Cow Face Pose is a seated pose that helps open your hips and loosen your shoulders. This can be a difficult pose to achieve without the use of a yoga strap. I found one side of my body was far more flexible, clasping my fingers behind my back, versus the other side where my fingers didn’t even come close to touching. See full instructions.
Child’s Pose is another yoga pose often referenced. This resting pose does stretch your hips, thighs and ankles but also helps calm your brain and focus on your breathing. It’s currently my favourite pose to end my practice. See full instructions.
Starting to incorporate yoga into your routine to increase your flexibility can be the first hurdle but the bigger obstacle is often moving from a task into a habit. I’m planning to add these poses to my existing morning routine of riding the bike in the hopes of working them seamlessly into part of my day. These poses won’t see me wining a marathon or doing headstands but if I can stave off stiffness and increase my ability to move more fluidly, my body and mind will thank me. Having the tools from GAIAM to reach my goal is also helpful.
Have you noticed less flexibility with your own body? How do you combat these limitations that sneak up on us?