Build a new program
Pushing and forcing for flexibility isn’t likely to work. Maybe for a little while, you’ve probably noticed that nearly anything new can appear exciting and promising for a little while. But not sustainably, and not without injury that ultimately turns you in the opposite direction from what you want. Does this mean we should just take it easy and never work hard? Not exactly, not even close.
As a start, this isn’t about “not feeling any stretch.” Of course if we just sit on a couch and do nothing, except maybe flop from side to side a bit, not much is going to happen. At least, not in a direction we want.
There’s a general guideline for movement and healing practices that works well here: Move easy, everything you’ve got, in every direction you can. And it’s a guideline followed alongside of practices like softness so you’re movable, connection so you move as one whole body rather than isolated parts, unweighting so always you’re entering challenge rested rather than depleted – all this isn’t all a way of avoiding challenge or sensation. It’s something very different.
First it’s a way of protecting vulnerable areas like joints, from a harmful practice of using force against resistance. You’ll see this in yoga when people try very hard to put feet behind their head, pushing the opening of hips or lengthening of hamstrings. Which leads to yoga teachers (funny enough, it’s almost always the yoga teachers) walking around with a strap around their thigh, to remind them of their problem.
I was told in my Jivamukti days that this kind of injury was good, simply karma coming to fruition. That’s one way to see it. Another is, don’t do things that make no sense, just to get in a pose. There’s always a better way. And for all kinds of reasons, it’s good for you to learn how to find it. It’s how we each learn to explore around challenge and find the best solution, rather than go to war with it. Which mostly means going to war with our selves. And this brings us back to yoga teachers with injuries.
And second, it’s how to get where you want to go, in a way achieves more of what you want, and less of what you don’t. More good, less harm.
Change how you practice
What does a good practice for flexibility look like? As a start, it means heading toward a stretch, say a forward fold, without using the muscles of your arms to combat resistance in your hamstrings. Instead:
- Be movable, before you try to move. This means not holding yourself rigidly, locking joints and bracing muscles for battle. Instead, make sure from wherever you are, it’s easy for you to move in every direction you might want to move. First, you can be moved just by breathing. And second by using your center, and allowing the rest of your body to follow.
- Head for where you want to go, but not as an endpoint. You want more flexibility, more mobility, in your hamstrings? That’s great. You won’t get it by going to war with your hamstrings, then retreating when it’s done.
Instead, head toward the challenge, while remaining soft enough to be movable. And once you get somewhere near this challenge, rather than hold a stretchy endpoint and wait for it to be over, keep a relationship between your body and breath.
There are no endpoints this way. Every breath makes where you are someplace new. Every inhale picks you up out of where you are just a bit. Every exhale takes you someplace that is completely new. It could be right back down, it could be someplace else, maybe a little left or right, forward or back. You don’t need to decide.
Allow your body to go along a bit for the ride with your breath. For this, you simply need to be movable, head where you want, and stay movable once you get there. It’s how you avoid going to war. It’s how you get out of your own way. And it’s how you get to be flexible, movable, even where things all around are inflexible and immovable.
About Strala Yoga Training
Strala combines the movement and healing wisdom of tai chi with the form vocabularies of yoga, tai chi, qigong, and Traditional Chinese and Japanese Medicine, to help people release stress, move easily through challenge, and live radiantly inspiring lives.
It begins with a mindset, that says our best way to get where we’re going is to feel good along the way. It also works miracles for whole health, helping us to find ease in our bodies and minds, and create the right conditions both for healing and optimal performance.
In our Strala Yoga Training Courses, you learn to shape your destiny on every level that counts, from your psychology, chemistry and neurology, to your chromosomes and even gene expression. The unique set of skills you develop – for connecting with yourself and others, unblocking your energy, healing what needs healing and accomplishing challenge with ease – uncovers your ability to create the life you want, and be an inspiring leader to the people around you.