Hatha Yoga explores various methods of expanding into the muscles and joints creating freedom and healing properties. As much as we enjoy creating flexibility from our Yoga poses, we need to understand the necessity of balancing this growing flexibility with strength and endurance.
There is a growing interest in restorative and passive-style Hatha Yoga classes like Yin Yoga. These Yoga practices incorporate a beautiful method of creating layers of physical, mental and emotional release. Yin Yoga is designed to move flexibility through the muscle tissues into the connective tissues.
When we practice deeper into connective tissue, the joints enjoy spaciousness and we experience a breaking down of imbalances and blockages. But, with this increased flexibility going directly into the joints, we can gradually encounter a loss of integrity and stability in those joints. With less stability surrounding these joints, we become more prone to acute and chronic injuries.
Coming back to the basic function of ligaments (tissues connecting bone to bone), their main purpose is to hold joints in place. Do we want to make ligaments, the primary support of our joints, flexible? Then we look at the function of muscles and tendons (tendons attach muscle to bone). We normally associate muscles with creating movement of the joints. Consider the thigh and hamstring muscles. These large muscles travel down the front and back of the thigh bone and then cross over the knee joint to attach at the lower leg bone. This crossing of muscle tissue over the joint acts as an additional support, thus aiding the ligaments in creating joint stability. Therefore, to what degree do we truly want our muscles to be flexible if excess flexibility reduces joint integrity?
All high level athletes that participate in sports requiring flexibility (ie gymnastics, figure skating) must balance their flexibility training with key strengthening programs to reduce incidences of injury. As we progress in our Hatha Yoga practice, we should apply equal amounts of strengthening with flexibility in order to contain the release and openness. The overall purpose of the Hatha Yoga practice is to improve the vitality and steadiness of the body with the deeper purpose to encourage and promote connection with the Inner Self and truths. If the body is only flexible and collapsing into its’ joints, the vitality and steadiness will soon collapse as well. Enjoy a balanced, variety of practices that explore strength along with expansion to facilitate overall integrity for the musculoskeletal system.