Let’s face it – flexibility is what we all desire but are least motivated to achieve – I am sure this resonates with most people outside of the yoga industry! The reasons for this are clear, we are drawn to a particular fitness regime because we mostly want to lose weight or get fitter and improving our flexibility doesn’t appear to reach either of these goals faster – or so it seems. I am going to tell you how you can improve your flexibility as well as burn calories and increase your strength all in the one session if you so desire. I will also tell you why maintaining or improving your flexibility is vital to your overall health and wellness especially as you age.
3 minutes of stretching post workout achieves very little and almost gives stretching a bad name. As with cardiovascular fitness – if you want to achieve certain fitness goals you have to work almost daily with a minimum investment of 30 minutes – this rule applies to improving your flexibility too.
But I hear you all saying you only have an hour a day or less to devote to yourself and flexibility is not going to get you into that outfit you plan to wear in 3 months time. This is where I tell you how you can achieve your health and fitness as well as improve your overall flexibility – one word – yoga.
Most of us have a vague idea of yoga and static stretching, but this is a very narrow understanding of the evolution of yoga and how transformative daily yoga can be. Not only in terms of weight loss, improved cardiovascular fitness and strength levels, but also added to the mix is improved coordination and reflexes, decreases in stress levels, increases in concentration and focus ultimately leading to more mindfulness and enjoyment of the present moment.
So where do I sign up? If you have a reasonable level of fitness, I would recommend a vinyasa class, which is a ‘flow’ class using the breath as your gauge of intensity level. Because of the fast pace of the class and duration of holding the poses – you get cardiovascular benefits as well. The inclusion of sun salutations and certain poses will definitely work on your strength levels.
A good teacher will know how to progress you through to more advanced poses as your ability improves. To really notch up the intensity you can eventually progress into hot vinyasa which is performing the yoga in a heated room usually between 37 and 39 degrees. Definitely not for the faint hearted – the heat shoots the heart rate up producing the same effect on the heart as an outdoor 10km run, but without the pounding on the joints and constant injuries that many of us suffer from running or similar activities.
So you get the cardiovascular benefits of a 10km run without the wear and tear on the body, your strength levels improve with all the body weight poses you will learn and along the way your flexibility improves dramatically. The wonderful realisation you will have, is that with improved flexibility – you will suffer less injuries, your posture will improve and your overall emotional health will be boosted since a lot of emotions are stored in the body. Therefore, as your hips and shoulders open up, incremental layers of old emotions will evaporate leaving you feeling lighter and more positive about your life.
The best way to begin a program of flexibility is to get yourself along to a class where you will receive instruction from teacher. If it is something you want to get started from home – I would recommend using You Tube and finding a teacher who can take you through an introductory vinyasa class. If you are familiar with yoga, you can also try out my sample program below.
Good luck along your journey.
Sample program 2 – intensity level – moderate YOGA
For the yoga lovers – here is a hatha sequence – hold each pose for 8-12 breaths
Warm up with 2 rounds of classic sun salutations
Standing half moon pose (right/left)
Eagle pose (right/left)
Standing bow pose (right/left)
Wide leg forward bend
Warrior 2 (right/left)
Extended side angle pose (right/left)
Downward facing dog
High plank – Side plank (right/left)
Jump through to boat pose
Seated Head to knee pose (right/left)
Seated head to toe pose
Seated spinal twist (right/left)