*A note to keep in mind before reading this post: Doing yoga, stretching, strengthening, using your body is not bad. It far outweighs not using your body. Don't be afraid to move your body. Ok, read on.
As a professional dancer I had a LOT of flexibility, but I was also strong in all those ranges of motion. Post dance career when I began practicing yoga I continued to stretch and stretch, and 'go deeper' because that was the emphasis in class and it felt good. Before long this stretch focused practice led to injury. As soon as I healed one thing something else would begin to hurt, sometimes I was managing more than one injury at a time.
It took me way too long to realize all the passive stretching was not helping. To heal I started focusing on strength, not a major overhaul, but adding load where I could to improve and support my body. For me the answer was not more stretching or the addition of a yin practice, it was STRENGTH. Soon the injuries ceased; I felt more agile, nimble, engaged. My body-mind felt smarter. Muscle, tendon and ligament were working together, pulling their respective weight. There was synergy and I felt amazing! Engaging muscles around joints held way more value than I once knew. That sensation of tightness in my body was not from tightness at all it was from weakness and instability. At a certain point there are diminishing returns on what flexibility can do.
"Going deeper" in the physical sense of the word is never-ending. Where are you going and what are you going to do when you get there? If vinyasa yoga is your main movement practice, your go-to exercise format, then I encourage you to discover ways to build strength within your flow on the mat. I’m currently exploring the addition of resistance bands and kettlebells. There are a growing number of teachers on social media raising the bar around this very topic. And if you just thought to yourself, woah, resistance bands and kettlebells in yoga? That’s not… Read this.
I want my movement to be useful and relevant to health for the long term. I want my strength and flexibility to be in symphony to one another.
The other day, after all these years of practicing and teaching movement, the words came and they rolled easy out of my mouth while leading a class. Words that muscle, bone, tendon, ligament, CELLS have always known to be right and true and waiting to be acknowledged. It's less about perfecting the pose and more about finding the right amount of that pose for your body. The amount that’s useful to YOU. Today and always. Because why else are we doing it? Who is your yoga practice serving?
Join me on IG where I share my favorite yoga hacks for creating an accessible, sustainable vinyasa yoga practice. @ohtrisha