Have you ever wondered why it’s taking you so long to get into hanumanasana? Or, why you can’t seem to contort your body into pretzel shapes?
Our Skeletal Structures Vary
There are many types of people in world and that means many variations in human bones. Each person will have a different range of motion according to the way their joints are shaped. So, no, there’s nothing wrong with you, or why after practicing for months or years, you can’t seem to get into a certain pose.
Importance of Joint Shape
Joints are what allow movement of our bones. Just as human beings vary in outward appearance, we also vary inward. We have six different types of joints in our bodies: planar, hinge, pivot, condyloid, saddle, and ball-and-socket joints.
Examples of Joints
- A planar joint would be the joints between the tarsal bones in your feet.
- A hinge joint would be the joint at your elbow.
- A pivot joint would be the joint at your neck.
- A condyloid joint would be the carpal bones at your wrist.
- A saddle joint would be the thumb joints.
- A ball-and-socket joint would be your hip joints.
In addition to the types of joints, there are also the shapes of the joints and joint sockets. This is where your range of motion is affected. Joint sockets can be pointed in different directions, such as forward, up, down, sideways, etc.
What is flexibility?
The standard definition of flexibility is being able to bend easily without breaking. It has nothing to do with strength. In fact, too much flexibility can be detrimental to your joints.
When you are overstretching your joints, you run the risk of snapping your ligaments. Weak ligaments cause instability in the joints. This is why it is important to also strengthen the muscles, and not only focus on trying to become more flexible.
Is flexibility important?
I will put a disclaimer here and say that this is my own opinion. Flexibility is important to an extent. You do not need to be the most flexible person in the world to enjoy yoga.
Yes, there are movements that require some degree of flexibility, but it is not necessary to be able to put your legs behind your head. Furthermore, the more you work on certain postures, the more you practice, the more flexibility you will gain. But, this is still just a by-product of consistent practice.
What’s more important is mobility.
Mobility is More Important
Mobility is the combination of flexibility, strength, and control. If you want to gain flexibility safely, practice mobility. This requires awareness of your own limitations, actively using your breath, and building strength. Utilizing other forms of exercise besides yoga is a wonderful way to achieve these things, and build foundations that you can use during your practice.
I’ve heard people ask whether it was okay or worthwhile to do other forms of exercises besides yoga; the answer is YES. While I was doing my 200 hour training, our teacher would encourage us to do cycling and TRX training. These types of exercises helped me not only achieve strength, but find stability in joints that I had previously damaged.
The bottom line is do not let your limitations stop your from practicing yoga, or advancing in your practice. We all have different strengths and limitations. Utilize your strengths to slowly improve your limitations, and recognize when your limitations are actually just your joints telling you that you don’t bend that way.