Sedentary work keeps us sitting in a bad posture for long hours, resulting in stiff hips and a stiff lower back. We often react to stressful situations by storing a lot of tightness in our muscles, more specifically the shoulders, neck, and upper back. Furthermore, as we age, our bodies tend to stiffen up and slowly lose flexibility. Over time this can make one more susceptible to injuries and improper mobility. We must take time out to maintain good joint health and flexibility to prevent future injuries and keep our bodies supple. Keeping the body moving also leads to better blood and lymph circulation which is beneficial for the rest of the body’s physiological systems.
While we see popular yogis wrapping their legs around their heads looking like contortionists - please know that it is not what is expected for a healthy range of motion. The yoga practice of asanas and mindful movement always talks about and respects the safe alignment of our limbs to our joints. The practice keeps your body supple, effortless and feeling light while reaching safe ranges of motion. The breath works together with the movement and is vital in understanding alignment and improving flexibility the right way, without any injury.
When practiced correctly, yoga helps you maintain great joint mobility while also building strength in the ligaments surrounding the joints, again another vital component of a healthy body.
Simple practices like Sukshma Vyama are a sequence of exercises that loosen all the joints of the body systematically. These are safe and rhythmic and can be done by anyone.
There are a series of poses that help maintain spinal mobility. Stretches like cat-cow, bridge pose, and a simple round of Surya Namaskar help maintain the forward flexion and backward extension of our spine. Poses like the Triangle pose, extended side angle pose, and Gate pose are all great ways to maintain lateral flexion of the spine. Poses like spinal twists are very good for overall spine health.
Yoga poses often even direct which way your head will be turned - looking up in cobra pose, chin tucked in downward facing dog, turned sideways in a warrior 2 pose. These small but important cues in asana alignment help maintain neck strength and mobility.
The yogic squat and the butterfly pose are probably some of the best stretches to maintain hip mobility. Shoulders are always being pulled back and stretched in poses like bow pose and locust pose. Even ankles are not forgotten and taken good care of in poses like vajrasan and warrior.
You can see how the yoga practice is so holistic and looks after every joint, muscle, and bone of your body. Don’t forget it also works on the mobility of your lungs!
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