We all know how to stretch, right? Well after 10 years of teaching I am not so sure. I mean yes I am sure you can stretch but are you getting the most out of it mentally and physically? Here are some tips and insights from what I have learned through working with my own body.
Principle number 1 – It’s not about going to your absolute maximum
Some people take each stretch as far as they possibly can. I know this because if I go to assist someone like this I can feel they have already hit their maximum. The biggest problem with this is, it is difficult to relax when it is so hard, as your body may tense up to protect itself. Potentially an even bigger issue is that doing so can risk injury. Taking small steps consistently in anything fitness related is generally much better than pushing too hard and then having to rest completely.
Principle number 2 – Accept where you are.
You may want to be more flexible than you are, but you can’t will yourself into a different body. It starts with working with the one you have today. If you are fighting with yourself, it’ll be less fun and hard to relax – it’s just your flexibility, it doesn’t define who you are. So find the stretch, be there, relax into it. This is much like life. Yes! If you are not where you want to be then you can work on it, but you have to start where you are. Suffering occurs when you think reality should be different to how it is, you can thank the Buddha for that one.
Principle number 3 – use the breath, it’s your friend
The breath will help you with both principles number one and two. If you are struggling to breathe then you are not following principle number one, and are probably pushing too hard so it’s a good feedback provider. It will also help you relax into the stretch and accept and be where you are. Breathe deeply, but not so deeply that you push too hard.
Principle number 4 – The real magic happens when you let go
As you stretch you should feel something, it just shouldn’t be excruciating and a difficult place to be. Once you are in the position, accept where you are, use your breath to help you to relax, and pay attention to the sensation. If you are in that sweet spot of a nice stretch and you are not tensing up, then you may well find that the sensation of stretch disappears. Listen to your body and if the sensation disappears go deeper and find another sweet spot. You may find this a little challenging at first, but listening in will help you develop a deeper awareness, which is one of the real magic benefits of yoga.
I hope this helps. Comment below if you have any thoughts or insights you would like to share.