With yoga we can build up more flexibility, strength and mobility. But how are these three areas related and why is it so important to find the balance between them? In her guest article, OGNX Ambassador Johanna from BowlsandBalance explains what the difference between agility and mobility is and shows helpful exercises to improve strength, mobility and agility.
Myth: flexibility in yoga
"I can't do yoga because I'm too immobile."
Do you know how many times I've heard this sentence? Both very athletic and unsportsmanlike people often think that you first have to be flexible and then you can start with yoga. But if at some point in your life you've learned something new (and that's what I'm assuming!), You know that it's the other way around: first comes the practice or learning and then comes the ability.
As my yoga therapy trainer says: Everyone can practice yoga. It doesn't matter whether you are in a wheelchair or can put your feet on your head in a handstand. Yoga is so much more than the photos or videos of hyperactive people that we see on social media every day.
What is yoga about?
In my opinion, yoga is all about developing a better sense of yourself. Perhaps, like me, you will first find access through your body and learn to move in a new way to the rhythm of your breath. Other people find access through the mind, learn to meditate and be more mindful of their feelings.
But if you practice for a while, you will find that body and mind are inextricably linked. When you practice with your body it has an effect on your mind and vice versa as well. That is why yoga works on all levels.
The better your sense of yourself, the better you know what is good for you and what is not. Then with all the contradicting information that you find, you no longer have to wonder what is right and wrong. You will perceive your body's signals more and more precisely. In order to develop this fine body awareness, it takes a little patience. The exciting thing is that you can learn something new every day and, over time, discover a range of motion that you didn't even know was possible for you.
Strength or flexibility?
The great thing is that you strengthen and stretch your body at the same time with almost every yoga exercise. While some of your muscles are working to keep you stable and balanced, other muscles are elongated. That is why yogis usually have long and lean muscles and still have a lot of strength.
So strength and mobility are not mutually exclusive. But what I have observed in myself for years is that they directly influence one another. The more I strengthen my muscles, the firmer and more stable the body becomes. So if we only do strength exercises, the body will become stiffer and more immobile over time (depending on the type of exercise). If, on the other hand, I just keep stretching, our tissue wears out over time. I get very agile, but I lack stability, which can lead to injuries.
We always need both: strength and flexibility.
What is the difference between agility and mobility?
What role does mobility play in all of this? Strictly speaking, mobility is part of being able to move. When it comes to mobility, most people think of how far they can stretch their muscles (and fasciae), e.g. when we bend the upper body forward while standing. We not only need flexible muscles and fasciae, but also mobility in the joints.
Mobility is about the ability of the joints to move freely. This form of mobility is influenced by our anatomy and everyday movement patterns. The more one-sided we move, the less our freedom of movement is.
Depending on whether you have previously focused more on strength or flexibility, you can create a conscious balance with the following exercises. Depending on how you do the exercises, you can improve your mobility (muscular and fascial) as well as strength and mobility.
Improve flexibility with yoga
There are different ways you can become more agile with yoga. In my opinion, the most effective way is to be conscious of your breath. In this way you expand your freedom of movement and stay focused. Because if you are really careful with yourself, you also protect yourself from injuries that happen quickly when we want to bring our body into a certain shape as quickly as possible.
These exercises increase your flexibility:
You can also use a yoga strap to make it easier to grip your back foot.
Build up strength with yoga
At the latest when you have held out 15 breaths for the first time in the "downward looking dog" or in "Utkatasana (chair position)" , you will know that yoga has a lot to do with strength. Although we “only” practice yoga with our own body weight, you will build muscles very quickly. It is undoubtedly a different force than the one you train by squatting with heavy weights. You won't get any big muscle packs from it either. Instead, you develop a force that strengthens and stabilizes you from within and at the same time allows you to move more and more.
You build strength with these exercises:
Improve mobility with yoga
The main reason why many people (especially in Europe and America) have low mobility is because of their one-sided movement patterns. Because most of the time we sit, lie or stand. Mobility is promoted when we make the best possible use of the range of motion of our joints and expand within the framework of our anatomical possibilities. Most yoga postures do not occur in our everyday life and therefore they are particularly effective in promoting our mobility. If you already practice yoga regularly, try to learn new movement patterns again and again and, regardless of the classic asanas, move very intuitively from time to time.