There are many reasons why having a flexible body is essential to our health and well-being. As a young child I was very flexible because I was a gymnast and dancer. Both gymnastics and dance require extreme stretching of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. They also work aggressively on the mobility of joints. I could do the splits every which way amongst many other things.
When I went to college I focused only on cardio. I ran, did the elliptical, jumped rope, and rollerbladed. Sometimes after my workouts I stretched mildly but not often enough. By the time I graduated at twenty-two, I noticed I was far from being able to do the splits. Then over that summer, not quite clear about the meaning of my newfound flexibility deficits, I attempted a back handspring. The back handspring was successful through completion, but I cracked my right elbow when my hands hit the ground. Though my brain recalled exactly what to do, I had neither malleable enough muscles nor mobile enough joints to absorb the shock of the trick.
Three years later, when I was twenty-five, I took my first yoga class. As a novice to yoga I was quick to learn thanks to my gymnastics and dance backgrounds. Low and behold however, I soon discovered that I could neither do cow face arms nor double lotus. My body was imbalanced. While perfectly capable of doing many simple and complex postures, I was also unable to do many asanas.
At that juncture, I realized that flexibility is one of the first things to go as our bodies enter adulthood and continue to age (assuming we are not dealing with an illness). In order to remain flexible, we constantly need to be on top of stretching via yoga and/or other body opening efforts. Athletes especially need to be conscientious about stretching to avoid injury, which is why so many pros like Lamar Odom, Hope Solo, LeBron James, Baron Davis, Blake Griffin, J.L. Lewis, and Justin Gimelstob are now doing yoga. As a yogi for the past fifteen years, I have conquered many of my former flexibility limitations but not all them. Maintaining and enhancing one’s flexibility is a life-long process.
Flexibility Helps To:
1. Prevent everyday injury including: muscle and disc strains that occur when turning over in bed or getting out of bed; shoulder tweaks that result from doing tasks on the job that involve lifting or reaching; back aches due to transitioning to standing from sitting, bending down to pick something up, or even walking up and down the stairs.
2. Improve your posture
3. Lengthen your muscles for a longer leaner look.
4. Make playing with your kids and babies easier and less injurious (remember that touch football game during which you overstretched you hamstrings?)
5. Allow you to feel more free, open, calm, content, and confident from the inside out.
6. Spread prana (life force) into your cells, which invigorates your spirit.
7. Make cardio activity a lot lighter and easier
8. Enhance sports performance (i.e. better arm and shoulder extension and rotation for swimmers and basketball players, longer strides for runners, deeper knee bends and hip flexion for skiers) as well as to parry blows that come with strong athletic endeavors
9. Travel more comfortably because of the ability to sit in many different positions and do things with your body in confined spaces you otherwise could not do
10. Need I say get through the Kama Sutra?
By Julie Wilcox