ONE of the things I hear a lot when I tell people that I’m a yoga teacher is; “I’d love to do yoga, but I’m not flexible enough.”
I have to hold myself back from shouting; “That’s exactly WHY you do need to do it!”
Because shouting isn’t really very ‘yogic’ I quietly explain the benefits of flexibility.
Hip flexibility is determined by many things including your genetic make up, whether you have shallow-than-normal joint sockets, your gender (women are more flexible than men) and age.
Even Kim Kardashian wants to get in on the flexibility bandwagon and has stated that one of her goals is to master the splits. Can you imagine the pictures?
Attending a weekly yoga class will help flexibility but it’s also important to be mindful of the things that you’re doing in day-to-day life.
If your hips are tight, there are some simple things that you can do to get them moving;
Sit Crossed legged
Sitting cross legged is a challenge for many, but the benefits are vast. It improves flexibility in the hips as well as strengthening the core and back. If you can sit like this regularly throughout the day, your hips will loosen fairly quickly.
Sit on the floor in a cross legged position. Draw your abdominal muscles in and make sure your back is straight. Breathe, allowing the chest to lift as you inhale. If your knees are higher than your hips, you’ll find it hard to sit with your spin erect so sit on a folded blanket until you become more supple.
Be mindful of the exercise that you do
Although running and cycling are great cardiovascular activities they can contribute to tight hips. Any exercise that is repetitive and where the knees are constantly going up and down will maker you tighter. If running or cycling is your thing, make sure you stretch really well after each workout you do, concentrate on anything that stretches the hip flexors, such as lunges, and eye of the needle.
Do ‘eye of the needle’ daily
This is THE one pose that everybody should do everyday. It stretches all the external rotators – so wonderful for those tight hips. If you suffer with sciatic pain this position can help as it gently stretches the piriformis muscle, which is in your buttocks.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your head should be flat on the floor with your chin tucked towards your chest. If you’re tight in your shoulders or neck this may be uncomfortable, so support your head with a yoga block or folded blanket. Inhale, exhale, place your right ankle bone over your left thigh. Draw your left leg towards you and breathe. You will feel a strong stretch in you left leg. Hold for at least three breaths, before exhaling and swapping sides.
Have regular massage
As well as feeling great, massage is key for become more flexible. It will help your muscles (and connective tissues, tendons and joints) to relax, stimulate blood flow and ensure your joints are all able to move as much as possible.
Invest in a foam roller
Fascia (also called connective tissue) covers the whole of your body. It’s supposed to be supple but injuries and trauma can make it become tight and when that happens the body becomes stiff. In order to really improve flexibility we need to target the fascia as well as the individual muscles and using a foam roller goes a long way to doing just this. To get the benefits, try placing the roller under your hips and simply roll up and down on it for a few minutes a couple of times a day. You can use it anywhere on the body – it is pleasure/pain personified. I bought mine from amazon.co.uk
In the Western World we love our chairs, however, the more sitting you do, the tighter the hip flexors (and hamstrings) will become. Children lose their flexibility as soon as they start school – because they’re expected to sit for such long periods of time. If you have a desk job, try to change position as much as possible, get up and walk where you can and do a few stretches throughout the day.