You may think that yoga and Pilates can be a bit “airy-fairy” and impractical, all chanting and praying for world peace. Let me tell you: what you do in yoga and Pilates is incredibly practical and helpful for your body, and helps you stay functional long after your contemporaries have given up on living productive, youthful lives. Read on and I’ll tell you why.
Most of us spend far too much time sitting down. Being sat in a stationery position shortens the muscles and causes stiffness, tension and tightness. It also reduces the space available for our bodies to breathe. One of the aims of both yoga and Pilates is to bring balance to the body, so lengthening the muscles can really help to get rid of aches and pains and reduce injury.
The conscious mind governs the way the body moves. The brain controls the skeletal muscles that move the bones and joints, telling the muscles to contract or relax and move into the positions of yoga and Pilates. Each joint is surrounded by muscles that are grouped according to the movement they produce when contracting or relaxing.
Tight muscles limit joint mobility; relaxed muscles increase it. Stretching lengthens the muscular stabilisers of a specific joint, allowing for greater range of motion of that joint. Practising yoga and Pilates lengthens muscles surrounding the joints and increases the range of motion for the entire body.
Stretching the muscles creates length. Several structures are affected when a muscle lengthens, including connective tissue. As the muscles lengthen, we then find that we can move more deeply into a pose. When we start out practising yoga or Pilates, we are typically only able to hold stretches and poses for a relatively short period of time. As our flexibility increases, however, we are able to hold the stretches for longer and therefore lengthen the muscles further.
My classes are inclusive and suitable for all levels. Most of the people practicing in my classes surprise themselves by what they can do and what they can achieve in a few short weeks. I think part of the reason for this is that my students are confident in what they can do, because I try to focus on what they can do, not what they can't.
Yoga and Pilates are not about getting into crazy positions and tying yourself up in knots; quite the opposite! They are about performing functional movements more easily, such as reaching an object on a high shelf, reversing the car or reaching down to tie up your shoe laces. What could be more practical and useful than that?
"The Heart of Yoga" — T.K.V Desikachar
One of the meanings of the word yoga is "to attain what was previously unattainable". The starting point for this thought is that there is something that we are today unable to do; when we find the means for bringing that desire into action, that step is yoga. For many people coming to yoga or Pilates a primary objective is simply that they want to touch their toes! Yoga and Pilates can make that happen!
Wise words! I also found this post on Facebook and it is both so simple and so true:
I found a book entitled, 'How to be Amazing at Anything'
It had only a single page inside and was just one word long - PRACTICE
So there you have it. If you practice, you will be excellent. If you practice, you will be flexible enough.
Which means… everyone is flexible enough for yoga and Pilates!