Most of us get on the mat to improve our flexibility and relax our mind. Some shy away from the mat, and feel intimidated by the Instagram photos of yogi gummies. They just decide that yoga favors only the flexible. Yes, the flexible in mind and heart, I would add. Flexibility is not a goal in itself – it is just the result of smart exercise that is never only physical or mental, it is both. Plus, it is spiritually-awakening and soul-nurturing.
I was quite a Pinocchio when I started Yoga. Pushing into poses and trying to fit into the yoga charts framed on my walls. And of course that stubbornness did not get me flexible – it actually injured my body, and limited by perception of what Yoga really was about. And I was relentless – taking classes one after the other, stretching everywhere – on the bust station, in the cafeteria, in the park. To no avail! I was getting stiffer by the day. What’s worse I exercised without the proper alignment and breathing. Until one day my injuries forced me to quit, and reconsider my practice. And I did.
I started honoring my body’s biomechanics, and learned how my personal anatomy could benefit of a more resistance based stretching, that build both strength and flexibility. And that really changed everything. I created my own practice that did not necessarily build into a peak pose, but took me through soothing and invigorating transitional poses and made me stronger and really supple. I learned the hard way, but when I finally adopted a whole new approach to human flexibility, tons of friends and students benefited from it. It is simple and effective and perfect for newbies, as well as seasoned yogis who want to practice in a safe and innovative way.
The innovation was in what I call the “micro-transitions” that led to the basic poses or created entirely new poses. When you approach a low lunge in Yoga, you try to follow the main alignment principles of squaring the hips and softening the belly, while keeping the shoulders down and the chest open. But if you approach the low lunge with a counter lunge, a contraction and a swirling bind, you will firm your base, lengthen your spine and prep for the hip opening action, while actually massaging the hamstrings to get into your first Down Dog. You will glide through the sequence seamlessly and realize that it’s not necessarily about “doing the stretches” or “getting into the poses”, but more about transitioning safely, while integrating the body parts that account for that particular pose or stretch.
This novel approach led me to discover the body as a hologram – all parts beautifully integrated and strung together by the fascia. As you dance in and out of the poses, and between transition, and you allow a little pulsing, bouncing, swinging, rocking and rolling moves, you end up like a cat, a dog or even a snake making its way through its natural movement vocabulary. And you tune to the organic plasticity of your body and your mind, creating more space and generating different ways to glide through obstacles and overcome challenges. And all of a sudden, you realize that flexibility is about being OPEN in your body, through the joints and the inter-articular spaces, as well as in your mind- forging new brain synapses and connections that help you navigate through your reality in a novel and aspiring way.
And believe me it really works, the more spacious the mind, the more open the body, the more obedient your joints, and the more well-behaved our temper. Ha, ha, ha….no more tantrums, no more emotional swings…Just a nice sense of personal presence and integrity. Yes, because everything in the body is interconnected. The more we tap that web of connections, the more we can rewire our brain to attain our wildest dreams.
Yoga for Flexibility: Open and Bendy (beginners level)
By introducing safe and accessible poses in a smooth flow this Yoga routine offers a novel solution to every beginner’s flexibility goals. The series of simple classical poses coupled with innovative transitional poses, stretch while building strength, and help release tension through stuck areas of the body and mind.