Good morning! I’ve started practicing Astanga recently and I have a question about stretching. I notice that if I focus on the breath and accept a little pain – I can, in every posture, stretching a little more with each exhalation. My question is: is this the right technique for me to gain flexibility? Keep controlling some pain that restricts the stretch and go ‘accepting’ in each exhalation? Or not? Is that wrong? What is the proper technique? Thanks for your help. Best regards Sergio P.
Many thanks for your question, I hope I can help. Well, I realized that you seek flexibility, but I suggest that you adjust the focus. I practice for over 10 years and have tried several goals. The one that brought me benefits was not practice seeking flexibility or strength, I explain. When we practice with a physical goals we surely will feel frustration. Even if we gain strength, vitality and flexibility with the practice, the body is different every day, sometimes we are stronger, sometimes more flexible.
In addition, over the years the body changes. If the focus is more physical, in those days we are stronger and more flexible we will be happier, while in that days, with not so enthusiastic body, we tend to feel more frustrated. We practice yoga more to find equanimity, regardless strong or flexible body.
My suggestion then is that you do not worry so much about gaining flexibility. Try practicing with the focus on self-investigation and self-observation. Try, in every asana, to tone and bring awareness to all parts of the body, breathing deeply and preserving alignment. With this approach, to investigate the possibilities of the body, the practice is much more enjoyable and less a ‘self-competition’. The strength and flexibility will come naturally without stress, as a result from the appropriation of the body and the awareness of controling each part of it.
During the asana, to activate and to bring awareness to the muscles, will expose your limitations, that should be respected. Each day there will be a different limit on the range of motion. If you practice everyday only to your limit, the deeper asana will come and this approach will avoid injuries. The “advanced” asana and a strong and flexible body are, therefore, side effects of a mindful practice, not a goal to be achieved. Hope this helps. Good practices!
I was born in São Paulo, Brazil and I teach since 2001. I studied in India with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Swami Dayananda Saraswati.
Living in Europe these last 10 years, I teach regularly in Croatia, France, Portugal and in Denmark, where I am currently living.
Besides Yoga, I am Bachelor in International Relations with specialization in Political Science at Sciences Po – Bordeaux.
I think my diverse education helps me to see yoga as lifestyle that can balance the individual and result in a healthy society.