BY Renee’ Fulkerson
I was sitting on one of my favorite beaches this past weekend after a heavy rainfall that had affected all of the Hawaiian Islands and I could still feel the weight of the moisture in the air. As I sat there I noticed all of the familiar picturesque surroundings that make this particular spot so beautiful. One in particular is a grand palm tree however, on this day it looked very different to me. Most days the palm tree stands tall and proud and depending on the season with our without coconuts. Today the long trunk was almost completely parallel to the ground and engorged with coconuts. My first thought was wow the picture of flexibility and strength right in front of my eyes. It got me thinking about teaching my next YogAlign class.
The next day when long time YogAligners walked into class I asked them the question would they consider themselves equally strong as flexible? They all kind of took a few moments to digest the question. One response was “yes, I do feel equally strong as flexible since I have been practicing YogAlign”. Others choose one over the other, some did not have any response and one student asked what do you mean by flexibility? I quickly responded what I don’t mean is the image you get in your head of Stretch Armstrong being pulled completely apart (we all laughed). Flexibility is no laughing matter when it comes to yogis pulling themselves apart much like Stretch Armstrong.
I then began to elaborate on what my idea of flexibility is and in what context I was asking them in the above question. Flexibility to me is being able to move though your everyday life in a pain – free flow. While walking arms, hips and legs propelling you forward with ease, being able to reach up and gab a glass out of the upper cupboards, maneuvering in and out of the car easily and bending down to pick something up from the floor gracefully. These are just a few examples of flexibility in everyday life.
Flexibility – sports definition: the capacity of a joint or muscle to move through its full range of motion. Flexibility is specific to a particular movement or joints, and the degree of flexibility can vary around the body.
That same student ask what do you mean by strength? I responded not Mrs. Olympia. Strength to me means moving from the center (core) of your body in proper alignment allowing you the ability to pick up that bag of recyclables and get them to the redemption center, put the box of books in the car to take to the library, purchase the value size of detergent and pick up your toddler or grand baby. Again just a few examples of strength in everyday life.
Strength – sports definition : the ability to carry out work against a resistance. strength is the maximal force you can apply against a load.
It can be easy to take flexibility and strength for granted in our everyday lives when these physical attributes are in good standing order. When they are not our everyday lives can become limited in certain ways. As we become more mature in life we have this image of frailty in regard to flexibility and strength. I believe if we maintain a consistent full range of physical activities well into the mature years that alone will keep us independant, flexible and strong. For example I have always considered myself flexible maybe even to flexible in some regards. Before I was aware of flexibility becoming a liability (as Michaelle Edwards creator of YogAlign puts it) I would pull my body apart in certain yoga postures. Well beyond its full range and over time began feeling pain and discomfort in my regular yoga practice. As far as strength I would say my life has for the most part not be limited due to a lack of strength however, a regular yoga practice was not building my strength. Once I shifted to a regular YogAlign practice I have seen an improvement in my level of strength and beneficial flexibility. I would say this happened as a result of the Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching technique practiced in YogAlign.
PNF is a more advanced form of flexibility training, which involves both the stretching and contracting of the muscle group being targeted. … It is also excellent for targeting specific muscle groups, and as well as increasing flexibility, it also improves muscular strength.
When wanting to improve certain physical desires I suggest taking the time to think about if those desires are realistic and beneficial for your entire well being. Meaning if you are looking to build your strength and or flexibility not all yoga classes are created equally. I find that yoga classes that move a bit slower and with natural body alignment awareness, full diaphragm breathing and attention to moving from the core are your best bet. Finding a teacher who knows how to move through the posture with stable and strong ligaments and joints is high on the must have list. A teacher who instructs to your body as a whole and not in pieces (the posture needs to benefit the entire body). Attending a yoga class that is more than 10 students is going to lessen your chances of getting one on one attention for your specific needs. Sometime very large regularly attended yoga classes appear to me as a choreographed production. Verses a yoga class where the instructor gets to know your body personally, knows what is comfortable and beneficial for your build and can que you specifically for your needs. Remember you matter in your yoga class of choice and this is your paid opportunity for self study and teacher guidance in a proper and professional manner.
Now go out and use your strength and flexibility for good!