Mobility for increased athletic performance and strength

It has come to my attention that many of my friends and acquaintances don’t practice yoga because “it is just stretching.” A comprehensive yoga practice is far more than “just stretching,” but the point of this post is that stretching is beneficial. The majority of my friends are extremely active: they play soccer and hockey, work out, ski and snowboard, surf, run marathons, climb mountains, ride bikes and generally the spend the majority of their free time outdoors. Great! Me too! Here is my question directed to all you athletic yoga naysayers: why wouldn’t you want to be limber and flexible so that you can perform all those sports to the very best of your ability and reduce your chance of injury?

Mobility issues plague almost everyone. Tight shoulders, stiff knees, poor posture….these are ailments that reduce athletic ability. The price of immobility extends beyond poor performance though; being limited in one area means that another area will pick up the slack, increasing your risk of injury. Yoga will help by increasing your mobility, leading to less pain, greater flexibility, increased performance and more strength.

Ankle Flexibility Test
Ankle Flexibility Lack of ankle flexibility forces you to compensate by leaning forward; this compensatory action will unnecessarily strain your spine. To test: assume a lunge position with both knees bent 90 degrees and the big toe of the forward foot 90 degrees from a wall. Try to touch your knee to the wall. Repeat with other knee. Good ankle flexibility will allow you to tough both knees to the wall without raising your front heel.
Pelvis Flexibility
Pelvis Flexibility Poor flexibility in your pelvis contributes to tight hips which can create instability and unnecessary pressure on your knees in any activity that requires deep squats. To test: lie on your back on the picnic table with your butt at its edge. Bring your knees to your chest, hugging them with your arms. Release, and slowly lower one leg as far as you can. Return it to your chest and repeat with other leg. You have good flexibility in your pelvis if you’re able to bring each thigh below parallel to the table.
Hamstring Flexbility
Hamstring Flexibility Lack of mobility in your hamstrings prevents you from effectively hinging at your hips when you need to get low. If you can’t do the all important “hip-hinge,” your spine is going to take the blow because you’ll have to bend at the waist to squat or lift. To test: stand tall with your feet together and your arms by your side. Slowly reach for your toes, keeping your arms straight as you lower your torso. You have excellent hamstring flexibility if you can touch your toes without bending your knees or rounding your back.
shoulder Flexibility
shoulder flexibility. Lack of range of motion in your shoulders forces you to compensate by leaning back when you need to reach overhead. Also, limited shoulder mobility will force you to twist your spine should you unexpectedly swing your arms in a fall. Unnecessary strain on your spine can be avoided by working towards full range of motion in your shoulders. To test: stand with your head, shoulders, and low back flat against a wall, heels eight inches away. Keep your arms straight and try to touch the wall above your head with your thumbs. You have good mobility if you don’t arch your back or bend your elbows.

Try these four tests to gauge your current mobility in the ankles, pelvis, hamstrings and shoulders. They will indicate if you have mobility issues in any of those areas. If you do, yoga can help! Stay tuned for specific yoga poses that will increase mobility in each of these areas. Until then, come to a yoga class at Taiga Yoga!

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