Many people think they are not flexible so they are not good candidates to do yoga. Yoga works in amazing ways for those who cannot touch their toes, with tight hips, and general stiffness.
At the Republican debate last night Marco Rubio made a yoga joke. Ted Cruz was speaking to Donald Trump to breathe, breathe, breathe. Rubio quipped in, “When they’re done doing yoga, can I answer?” Cruz remarked that he really hoped they would not start doing yoga on the stage. Rubio responded, “Well he (Trump) is very flexible, so you never know.” Although it might be the least important of his misconceptions, Rubio associated yoga as something meant for flexible people. (Can you imagine Donald Trump in a yoga class? Imagine Inapproprite Yoga Guy or something worse.) Rubio’s view of yoga is a commonly held misconception that yoga is meant for flexible people.
Yoga works as a great method to get unstuck and increase mobility.
I am inherently stiff. There are people much more bendy than myself but I am more flexible than most people. A private student of mine, a few years older, has trouble touching his toes and wants more flexibility. His goal for yoga is simply to become as flexible as me. He can achieve his goal. At least two yoga sessions a week for a few months with some good guidance will provide great results.
Flexibility, twists, binds, and touching the toes all result from moving the body in a conscious way. When I began yoga I moved my body in ways I never moved before. It felt great. I had no interest in body consciousness or understanding how the body really moves.I liked how I connected with new muscles and experienced my body in ways like never before. It was physical and spiritual. Still, i had very poor alignment but i had no idea about alignment. I thought I had been doing yoga for a few years so I was probably not so bad.
There are four stages of competence and learning. The first stage is unconscious incompetence. This is the stage of “I don’t know that i really don’t know how to do this.” Most people begin here although often feel they are at one of the higher stages. Once you get to the second stage, conscious incompetence, you can begin to look for tools and techniques to improve. At this stage you know that you don’t know how to really do it yet. There is where learning begins.
Yoga poses can be viewed a resistance stretches. You engage a muscle in one direction to allow a stretch of another muscle in a different direction. You need one thing to resist against another for it to work. If you only push in one direction the opening or balance will not happen. Finding the resistance or even knowing to look for it is the first step. It is not intuitive or obvious.
Using Your Body in Resistance Stretching
A clear example of this precise stretching comes in simple sitting position. Ray Long, an Orthopedic surgeon and yogi, has a few great books using his precise knowledge of anatomy to provide specific techniques for how everyone can get into certain poses. Ray has the buld of a linebacker. He explains how using his anatomy based techniques even he can get into Hanumasana, the splits. He uses the same guidance to improve posture and sit up straight.
As you are sitting cross legged you take your hands on your knees and pull back. This creates a closed contraction and engages the latissimus dorsi and provides a resistance to lift the chest. If you just try lifting the chest without this enagagement – without pulling the hands against the knees – you cannot lift the chest in the same way. How to hold up the heart, chest, sit tall, stand tall, fold, touch the toes, and improve mobility are some of the results of a regular yoga practice. Yoga done with precise techniques works wonders.When you practice right all is coming.