How to Get Flexible

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Hi Friends!

How can I be more flexible is a question that comes up a lot in our Strala Yoga classes in yoga, tai chi, and qigong, as well as in our Strala Yoga teacher trainings. I think it’s because most of us want a little more flexibility in our lives. We’d like a little less feeling of stuck-ness and tension, a little more feeling of relaxed, and even better if I can stay relaxed when things are tough.

This is also a question that comes in many forms.  Most recently, “Should I follow the stretching strategies used by dancers and gymnasts? These people work and push massively hard to be flexible, clearly it works, shouldn’t I do the same?” I think this question is double-important.

Always people are wanting to be more flexible. And, always people are wanting to get there with the kind of force that keeps them from getting there. Because it’s kind of programmed into us this way.

Enjoy this FREE Big Stretch Practice

If you’re teaching it’s good to explore here, you want to give people what they want. And if you’re practicing it’s also good, because there’s a very different program for how you approach challenges, that will always give more of what you want, and less of what you don’t.


We are programmed to push

If you’re a performance artist like a gymnast or dancer, it’s not only the movement that matters. It’s what it looks like. And it’s also not time or sustainability that matters. It’s just, can you do it right now?

So you’ll probably do things with your body to achieve near-term results, without so much focus on longer-term impacts. Forced lengthening of tendons and ligaments can be useful for creating the right appearance in these arts. But, the longer-term result isn’t so good, including joints that are less stable and capable, more open to injury.

It’s a strategy that gives your fastest path to becoming an X: ex-dancer, ex-gymnast, ex-runner, athlete, climber, ex-anyone whose body still goes along for an easy and pain-free ride, in whatever you want to do. And this isn’t just about sports.

It’s also worth noting that adult bodies don’t work the same as children’s bodies. One of our Strala friends in New York was an olympic gymnastics coach in the 1980s, and regularly remarked on this one. You can force a stretch on a child, and their body will hold the gains over time. Adult muscles don’t work this way. There can be lengthening within a stretching session, but it’s not sustained over time the way it is with a child.


Try less pushing, more moving

Pushing and forcing for flexibility isn’t likely to work. Maybe for a little while but not sustainably, and also not without injury that 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.” If we sit on a couch and flop a little from side to side, it’s good we won’t get injured this way, but we also might not see much progress with flexibility. Instead, there’s a general guideline for movement and healing practices that works really well:

Move easy, everything you’ve got, in every direction you can. 

It’s a guideline followed alongside of many 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. So we’re not avoiding challenge or sensation, but following a way of practice that keeps us safe, and also leads to sustainable progress.

Moving easy is a helpful guideline that protects vulnerable areas like joints, from a harmful practice of using force against resistance. You’ll see this in usual yoga practices, when people try hard to put feet behind their head, or push for the opening of hips or lengthening of hamstrings. It’s why we see so many yoga teachers with a strap around their thigh, to remind them of this 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 harm, just to get in a pose.

There’s always a better way. And for all kinds of reasons, it’s good for me to learn how to find it. It’s how I each learn to explore around challenge and find my own best solution, rather than go to war with it. Which would mostly mean going to war with myself!

So moving easy, everything you’ve get, in every direction you can move it, is also a guideline that brings you to a really good place: where you want to go. You get to accomplish this in a way achieves more of what you want, and less of what you don’t. More good, less harm.


How to build a new program for flexibility

What does a good practice for flexibility look like?  It begins with heading toward a stretch, say a forward fold, without using the muscles of your arms to combat resistance in your hamstrings. Here are a few steps to get you started:

1) Be movable, before you try to move. This means not holding yourself rigidly, by locking knee joints or 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.

2) Head for where you want to go, but not as an endpoint. You won’t get to sustained flexibility 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.

3) Allow your whole 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. We steer clear of going to war with our own bodies this way, and move instead toward real flexibility and mobility gains.

There are no endpoints this way. 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, just breathe deep, listen, and respond through how you move.

Want more? You can learn more practices and teaching approaches for balancing strength and flexibility, stability and mobility, in our online and in-person Strala Yoga Teacher Training Programs.

Strala 2023 Calendar supporting @thecharliefund is here for you. stralaapparel.comDesign of the calendar and repost @jes.lock“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much”
– Helen KellerGrowing up, I never felt connected to a community. I’m sure many (and first gen immigrants) can relate; the feeling of being an outsider, of not belonging in the only place(s) we know as home.I’ve had a lot of healing around community. I carried the belief that no matter where I went, I didn’t belong. This belief was challenged when I went to my first @stralayoga training back in 2017 in Amsterdam.Even though we were all from different backgrounds and cultures, this group of people felt…warm. We were gathered together momentarily for a similar purpose: to connect to ourselves, to feel better.“How you are is how you lead” Tara and Mike’s words still echo through everything I do.Because for the first time, it wasn’t about proving myself or trying to be someone in order to fit in.For me, it was about finally softening into myself. Allowing myself to take up space, to be seen. To stop pushing and honouring where I’m at (instead of beating myself for not being where I could be)And around me, so many people were also unlocking their own lessons.We’re all echoes of each other.
Because as cliche as it sounds, we heal together.When we take care of ourselves, it ripples into everything around and within us.For the first time, I felt at ease in this group of “strangers”. I could feel the resonance, the openness, the belonging.And years later, this community keeps growing while spreading softness and ease. Embodying their values.Prioritizing their well-being even when it’s challenging at times. Because self-care is not selfish.We are body and mind.
Taking care of my body helped soothe my mind.
Taking care of my mind helped heal my body.So proud and grateful to be part of this beautiful community ❤️ Thank you @raebroderick for such a brilliant idea, thank you @tarastiles @stralayoga for all the connections, opportunities and ease.
Just a little you time, every day, leads to a whole lot. Love the joy oozing out of @livs_campbell#joy #handstand #stralayoga
Iceland is awesome and we are so grateful to have had the most epic time with a wonderful group from all around the world thanks to @iamerinmarie dreaming up @eatpraymoveyogaA trip of a lifetime that we want to repeat over and over. 🙏🔥🧊scenes from #iceland. #eatpraymoveiceland @eatpraymoveyoga
Now that we have seen the auspicious well fed Icelandic street kitty, the retreat can begin! Excited to be here with a lovely global group and @eatpraymoveyoga guiding the way!#stralayoga #eatpraymoveiceland #stralaiceland #iceland
Yoga the Tai Chi Way is a great way to start the day @moseholmyoga
Yoga the Tai Chi way🤍
An amazing way to start your day!Reset the energy, release any tightness, shake off what’s stuck and stay grounded🤎#feelgood #yoga #taichi #yogathetaichiway #stralayoga #breathedeep #movewithease #feelgood #reset #recharge #staygrounded #shakeitoff #wellness #health #yogamom #yogamamma #yogainspiration #yogavideo #yogaforeveryone
Getting in that meditation made easy from our friend @aceyogala
🥱 Happy Monday! ☺️
*original sound 😂
Stay Brave in your pursuit of JOY! 💌
#rest #monday #mondaymotivation #mondaymood #fashion #motivation #health #love #photos #life #peace #video #lifestyle #like #healthylifestyle #happy #happiness #live #joyforlife #aceyogala
@raebroderick is hosting her lovely retreat in Ireland again. Registration is open for the experience of a lifetime.
🇨🇮Ireland Yoga, Surf + Music Retreat: May 21-25, 2023🇨🇮The doors are open, sweet friends, for you to reserve your space. Save $250.00 with code EARLYBIRD at checkout.Yoga, Cliffs walk, meditation, food, accommodations, music, spa facilities, opening + closing receptions (plus a special gift!😉) are included.À la carte additions include surf lessons at @thegreenroomlahinch + on-site massage with Denis Jackson-Wade.I don’t have many photographs of yoga inside the space because we don’t allow for pictures during this special time. Daily @stralayoga with yours truly, as well as thoughtful + relaxing Yin Yoga with retreat is for you. Take what you need + leave the rest. Take all the classes. Take none. No matter. Honor how you feel.I wish these posts did justice to the magical place that is @cliffs_of_moher_retreat.More details at the link in bio. These retreats do sell out every year, so, if you’re on the fence, drop me a line. Let’s connect. Prices will increase December 16.I don’t have any fancy marketing, so, shares + tags for folks you think may want to join you or may be interested are deeply felt + appreciated.Roll on May.🤎
Great advice from @the_a_life#slowdown #stralayoga #unplug
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