By Jen Portman
As a yoga teacher and studio owner, I hear this all the time – especially from athletes. Despite what you think, yoga is not just for bendy teenage girls or skinny granola-crunching guys. It is something everyone can do – and should do. Particularly if you are very inflexible. Not having full range of motion – being so stiff in the hamstrings that you cannot touch your toes- is a recipe for injury since your body cannot move the way it should. All parts of our bodies are attached; tightness in the hamstrings puts unnecessary strain and pressure on the hips and knees, lower back and ankles, and creates inefficiencies in your stride.
There is no reason to be intimidated by your lack of flexibility in a yoga class. Everyone is doing the same postures at the same time, but to a different point along a spectrum. Each person goes to his or her own edge until they feel the stretching sensation. Someone who is more flexible will need to go deeper into a posture to feel the same sensation. A good yoga teacher will help you find your own edge to get the most benefit from your practice, and stay safe.
This is simply a function of anatomy -bone structure, and tightness that comes from the activities we pursue. Everyone’s anatomy is different, everyone is focused only on him or herself in a yoga class, not on your postures. And, everyone can benefit from practicing yoga, wherever they fall in the tightness spectrum.
Most yoga classes also incorporate other elements that have nothing to do with flexibility:
The “Tourniquet Effect.” Squeezing and compressing organs and joints creates a super-energizing and healing blood and oxygen flow to those areas when released. This is one reason why yoga is more than just exercise and makes you feel so good; you are working and healing your body from the inside out;
Balancing on one foot. The wobbling from side to side that balancing creates help strengthen the ligaments and connective tissue that support the ankle and knee joints;
Mindful breathing. Deep, full breathing calms the central nervous system, allowing your mind to clear and focus.
So give yoga a try; particularly if you can’t touch your toes. You might be pleasantly surprised at how good you feel, how it helps your running, and maybe how cute those toes are.
By Jen Portman. RunJersey.com contributor & owner of Synergy Hot Yoga in Fair Haven.