MMYC: Stretching

In my previous post, I went on a long tangent about how yoga isn’t just stretching. But, stretching is an important element of the physicality of yoga.

On Tuesday, my instructor said something interesting. How I’ve been attending the same classes led by the same instructors for years and still find their guidance and words to be interesting, I will never know. Yet, as I struggled to straighten out my knees while simultaneously flexing my toes and keeping my back flat in my seated forward fold, her words slapped me across the face.

If you feel squirmy, then the yoga is working. 

Aha moment. THIS is why people generally don’t stretch. THIS is why people avoid foam rolling. THIS is why so many people get injured or develop chronic pains and soreness.

Stretching is uncomfortable.

Of course it doesn’t feel right to have your hamstrings pulled tight. It sucks to have a block of dense foam digging into your IT Band. Chances are, your body weight pressing down on two tennis balls separating your shoulder blades doesn’t produce a smile.

But it works. And it hurts so good.

So, somehow we have to accept the squirming and accept a movement or stretch that feels awkward because…. that’s the point. We get so used to feeling the same movements, making the same shapes, slouching, rounding, bending at the same angles, that we forget to contradict these movements with other, opposite movements. Yin and yang. If I spend my afternoon hunched over my laptop, then I should counteract this with a back bend or bridge. Arching, twisting and folding doesn’t feel right because we don’t do it enough. As my instructor said this evening (Day 5 of the challenge), “Find comfort in the uncomfortable.”

This translates to life outside of yoga. When an individual pushes his or herself to do something unnerving, scary, or just simply awkward, amazing things can happen. Scared of public speaking? Preparing and delivering a kick ass presentation will give you a rush. Never run a 5k? Training and running your first race will fill you with pride. This is all common knowledge. Do one thing per day that scares you. That’s how the saying goes. Of course, the language is slightly off. “Scare” doesn’t quite cut it. Do one thing per day that makes you squirm. That sends your body, heart and mind racing. That makes the world shake. Or at least, your vision blur. We should be uncomfortable often because this means we are pushing ourselves to do more. To be better. To stretch deeper.

That squirming sensation as I position my front leg into a 90 degree bend, point my back toes in a different angle than my front, open up my hips, shoulders and chest to the front mirror, pull my core tight and tuck in my tailbone forming a pose known as Warrior 2, that’s the yoga working.

Here are a few of my favorite yoga poses. I will work on improving the picture quality as the month progresses.

Warrior 2: Stretches hips, groin and shoulders; strengthens quads, glutes and shoulders.

Warrior 2: Stretches hips, groin and shoulders; strengthens quads, glutes and shoulders.

Reverse warrior: Stretches the side body and back, strengthens legs

Reverse warrior: Stretches the side body and back, strengthens legs and core

Eagle Pose: Stretches shoulders, IT Bands, and hips; strengthens arms, legs, knees and ankles, increases circulation to all joints

Eagle Pose: Stretches shoulders, IT Bands, and hips; strengthens arms, legs, knees and ankles, increases circulation to all joints

Dancer's Pose: Stretches spine, shoulders and quads; stretches back, shoulders, and chest, improves balance

Dancer’s Pose: Stretches spine, shoulders and quads; stretches back, shoulders, and chest, improves balance

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This entry was published on March 8, 2013 at 4:23 am and is filed under Yoga Challenge. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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