Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Secret to Flexibility...

What do you get if you cross an elephant and a rhinoceros? Elifino!
Har, har.
I have been trying to add an aerobic element to my weekly exercise; I'm not ready for running, yet, so I've been using the elliptical machine three times a week. Post-workout, I do a few stretches for the legs to loosen everything. I gotta say, sometimes it's nice to use asana for purely physical reasons, no measured breathing, no turning inward, just letting the work of the muscles be the only work.

Sometimes the chosen pose--usually gomukhasana-gets the attention of fellow gym-goers so (as long as I'm in a good mood) I can use the moment for a bit of yoga-promotion. Pressed for details, I will go so far as to invite the curious to one of my classes. Spreading the word, if you will (*gasp*).

A couple of times I've traded pleasantries with a very strong, muscle-bound fellow. Yesterday, he called out, "So, Yoga Lady, what's the secret to getting more flexible?" Hmmm, teachable moment, thought I. So I chatted with him for a bit about not pushing past a muscle's capability, but allowing the body to open with the breath; listening to what's too much and backing off a bit when the muscle starts to resist a stretch; coming to class (of course); not getting mad when you can't do the same thing as your 17-yr-old body did in Tai Kwon Do.

I'm starting to see more students in class with the express purpose of increasing flexibility, which is nice. Maybe we've starting to move beyond tight, hards bodies (a little bit). I figure getting them in the room is the biggest hurdle and then I can slowly let yoga work its magic. If they stick it out, they increase flexibility...and often pick up some other skills in the process.

But, the Secret to Flexibility, in 25 words or less?
Uhhh, hell if I know.

(For more animal mash-ups, click here)


heather said...

I've gotten a few of those muscle-bound guys to my class by telling them that it's easier to teach yoga to an inflexible person.

Flexible people have to learn stability and in order to not overstrech have to exercise restraint - in other words, not go as far as they could into a pose in order to do it safely with correct alignment.

One of those guys told me the other day that while he knew it wasn't why he was "supposed to" like yoga, he appreciated the fact that his golf swing improved by 30 yards after he started taking my class. =)

La Gitane said...

Maybe there's a new yoga revolution afoot! I used to have a nearly all-female class. Then one day, someone brought 3 friends, all Big Buff Boys. Then, they brought a few Big Buff friends too. Now I have 6 or 7 regulars and they make up about a third of my class!

After class last time one of them said to me: "I've been working out for 20 years. But since I've been doing Yoga 3 times a week, for the first time in 20 years I'm pain free!"

I often tell them that yoga is the perfect complement to a muscle building routine because it helps people to balance strength with flexibility and develop complimentary muscle groups (e.g. triceps with biceps, lower back with abs, hamstrings with thighs) and bring balance to the body that reduces the risk of injury from targeted muscle work. Also, it allows them to build flexibility in their joints (esp. back, hips, knees) which can end up taking a lot of the stress of repetitive activity like weight lifting.

Another pleasant surprise: one of my Big Buff students said to me before taking a holiday a while back: "I'm really going to miss yoga while I'm away - especially all the breathing and chanting - I love that spiritual shit!" (His words!)

:) Just spreadin' the love! Great post!

Rachel said...

he he he :D

One of the first classes I ever taught (back when I taught Astanga) I had a student who was an ex body builder. Back then, not knowing some of the things I know now I nearly died when I asked him to touch his toes and he couldn't get to his knees!!!

Like Heather, these days I find teaching to inflexible people easier - being quite inflexible myself even after all these years! I find it hard to stop the hyper-mobile from pushing too far.

Rachel said...

Heather - my partner says his golf swing has improved since he started yoga too - I think that's the only reason he still comes to class :D

Claudia said...

Great story, I like the way you are getting people to enter the room, establishing a conversation, dwelling on something that brings attention to the practice. And as per flexibility, I love your secrets to it...

Brenda P. said...

I'm starting to think the golf-game-improvement theme might be my new marketing scheme. One of my long times, a 67-yr-old man, became a devoted regular 3 yrs. ago once he realized how much better his swing had become.

@heather/rachel-I hadn't thought about the inflexible-as-easier angle, but I totally agree. Maybe it's the show-off factor that comes with be very flexible in a yoga class.

@LaG-I enjoy having BBs in class, too. I think they bring a nice energy and a sense of humor that keeps things light. Plus, when they stick around, they really do seems to dig the "spiritual shit." Hilarious!

@Claudia-It's all about getting them in the room...the practice takes care of the rest, doesn't it?

Nicole Becker said...

The Secret to Flexibility?
One word; Relax
Two words: Relax and breathe!

yoga fitness said...

Love the article.

Emma said...

there's a regular workshop at kripalu called yoga for golfers taught by les paul (or some name like that). it's pretty popular, actually...

Linda-Sama said...

the secret to flexibility is working the connective tissue, not the muscles, like in a vinyasa or astanga or any other yoga class that is "muscular."

Jana Renee Derges said...

I heard from an anesthesiologist that once they knock a person out, they have to be very careful with their bodies. If they wanted they could take the patient's leg and put it behind their head. Which posed the thought - how much does the mind control our flexibility?

Food for thought?