The most depressing thing you are told as a Yoga teacher is ‘I can’t do Yoga, I’m not flexible enough’.
It’s depressing for two reasons:
- Yoga is not just stretching
- The less flexible you are, the more Yoga you need to do
Muscle stiffness is essentially the dehydration of muscle tissue, a natural part of the ageing process. Stretching slows down and literally reverses this process by stimulating the production of tissue lubricants.
This is the science behind the ‘use it or lose it’ rule.
If you don’t proactively move your muscles and joints through their complete range, which it far beyond the range required in our modern, sedentary lifestyle, the range will shorten increasingly with age….until it’s so short that you can’t even meet the required range of our modern, sedentary lifestyle.
You have to straighten your legs in forward folds.
I would quite like a t-shirt that reads “bend your f***ing knees”
I learnt this the hard way…if only a long straight spine was as sexy as straight legs (this is all about your ego).
Whether it’s uttanasana (standing forward fold), paschimottanasana (seated forward fold), prasarita padottanasana (wide leg forward fold), or janu sirsasana (knee to nose forward fold)…forward folds are about lengthening your spine and you are doing precisely the opposite by hunching forward to facilitate straight legs.
Straight legs do not represent progress. If you cycle, swim, walk, run, sit at a desk, or do pretty much any human activity, your hamstrings will shorten no matter how regularly you practice.
I bend my legs in at least the first three uttanasana suryas (forward folds in sun salutations) until I am properly warm enough to straighten my legs without hunching my spine…and my head often does not reach the floor in prasarita (wide leg forward fold). It really depends on the day, and by that I mean the activity that has preceded my practice.