AnandaYoga

Strength vs Flexibility

6 posts in this topic

I seriously feel like trying to balance the two is the bane of my yoga practice! I have always adapted to any new exercise very quickly and build strength easily.  As a kid, I played soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball, gymnastics, ballet, karate, track - you name it, I did it! My body always welcomed the activity and muscle / strength building happened within weeks.  It has always served me well but I am SO frustrated when it comes to yoga!! I have been doing yoga for about 5 years now, but have only had a very committed practice for the last 4 months.  I have been able to learn all kinds of arm balances and inversions and could pop into headstand after two months, but I still can NOT touch my toes without a 20-30 minute warmup! I hope I don't come off as ungrateful, I am so blessed to have the strength and ability that I do have.  However, my ego is wanting me to do all of these beautiful intricate "Instagram worthy" flexibility based poses (King Pigeon, I'm looking at you!) and I am really struggling with balancing the two.  Any advice is so welcome! Thank you!

YogaByCandace likes this

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I have the opposite problem, my arm strength is absolutely woeful. You might be able to see in my avatar that my arms are tiny and they're about as strong as they look. I find that to build it I really need to do some sort of weight / body weight training. Don't get me wrong, yoga has been amazing for my strength but I need more being so far behind everyone else naturally. Could this be a case with you for your flexibility - that perhaps you need some more gymnastics type training to build that flexibility to complement your yoga practice? I was crazy flexible when I did gymnastics.

Also, if we don't look like the Instagram people but are still working on our strength/flexibility/balance we're still one ahead of a lot of people. My worst fear is becoming old and immobile so keeping up any sort of strength and flexibility is still great for us even if we're not contortionists.

yogafire and AnandaYoga like this

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Looking like the yogis on Instagram should be a long term sort of goal. I focus on trying to improve myself each time I practice. Progress can be slow and sometime frustrating, but persistence pays off. I know I've got a long way to go, but I can see improvement in my poses. 

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My best advice? Patience. Flexibility comes when you least expect it and it takes time. 4 months of committed practice, in the grand scheme of things, isn't that long. Keep at it, and try to focus less on how far you go, and more on how you go. A forward fold is not characterized by touching your toes, rather by finding both steadiness and ease in that position. To work on opening up the back of the legs try bringing some breath and small movement into your stretching. On each inhale back off of the stretch, imagining the entire body lengthening, more space coming into all of the joints and muscle tissues. Then, as you exhale, allow yourself to surrender to the stretch. I'd encourage you to close your eyes and feel your way through it, rather than focusing on where you are geographically in the pose. One day, when you least expect it, when it's the farthest thing from your mind, and after lots of practice, you'll feel your fingers graze the ground.

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Gosh, you all are AWESOME!

@JasmineI get into arguments with my cousin because she is CRAZY flexible, has only been practicing a month or so and almost has splits down! But you are right.  I have a bit on an addiction to power/Ashtanga style classes, so maybe slooooooooowing down and doing some yin/restore is a good option.  Thank you!!

@scottcraftSo true.  So many people tell me not to look at them at all but Rachel Brathen inspires me beyond anything to practice when I don't want to, so I personally find it beneficial.  Reminding myself that they have been practicing consistently for years is a great way to keep it in perspective.  Thanks!!

@brenskip55Ugh, the "P-Word!!" My ego HATES the idea of patience.  Which is a sign that it's something I really need to work on ;). I read a really awesome article about flexibility, that science is discovering that stretching doesn't come from a "loosening" of ligaments/tissues but the pain you feel when you have found your edge is actually a function of the central nervous system that sends a message to your brain to "STOP!" I just found that really cool, and gives me more hope that I will continue to progress!

 

scottcraft and YogaByCandace like this

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Yeah, I agree with the others. Just be patient; it will come! I was not able to do a lovely forward fold until rather recently to be honest and I've been practicing for over a year. Flexibility-specifically in hamstrings, has been very difficult for me and has taken its sweet time for sure. Don't worry! Just keep at it, make sure you have flexibility and strength in your practice. I incorporate elements of both each day. If I do an arm balance heavy class then I stretch my lower body and if I do a standing posture/leg strength heavy class then I stretch the upper body so things kind of switch off.

scottcraft likes this

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