Sports FAQ
Home / Yoga

How to increase flexibilty fast: Repetition or endurance?

Quetzalcoatl2010-07-03 15:18:53 +0000 #1
Hello.

To benefit from the actual purpose of an Asana (which usually isn't increasing flexibility), the best idea is to get into it ("gracefully", as Dharma Mittra keeps repeating), remain in the final posture for a long time with breathing deeply and at ease and then ("gracefully") come out of it again. Just that if you're not yet flexible enough, this won't work so well. What is the fastest way to achieve the necessary flexibility?

I can think of and tried some of these approaches, but it's really difficult for me to say, which works best:

1. Get into the Asana and remain there as long as possible, while trying to get or push further into the stretch. Using Uttanasana as an example: Bend forward, get to the point of tension, remain there and work on extending the point.

2. Get into the Asana for a short time (shorter than you could, like in the sun salutation), so the strings aren't stressed as much as in 1. (= not as much they could), but repeat it often in a session. Uttanasana: Bend forward, extend a little at the point of tension, come out of the pose again to release the tension. Repeat the whole process over and over again.

3. Combine 1. and 2. in one session like this:

3a. Repeat the Asana often, while remaining in the pose as long as you can.

3b. Repeat the Asana often as in 1. and then do it as in 2. one time at the end before moving on the the next Asana in the sequence.

3c. Go through all Asanas as in 1. and then do (so to say) another whole session with doing them as in 2. So the 1.-session is to stretch, the 2.-session is to do actual Asana-practice.

4. Combine 1. and 2. over the week (do 1. every other day, 2. on the other every other days)

Any comment on these methods will be appreciated, as well as alternative suggestions.

And fyi: I have no teacher & can't have one right now.


meggiehayne2010-07-03 15:29:36 +0000 #2
moving slowly with close attention to the way the position feels in you body
Willem2010-07-03 16:07:14 +0000 #3
Quote:

Originally Posted by Quetzalcoatl



What is the fastest way to achieve the necessary flexibility?

Your question about flexibility and yoga is a legitimate one. After all, yoga is known for its prowess to increase flexibility, to reduce stress, to improve concentration, and to create an overall sense of well-being. However, the question on how to quickly achieve flexibility is not legitimate. At least not in my mind and not within the context of hatha yoga.

Why not? Because hatha yoga has nothing to do with aggressive goal seeking. Instead, yoga favors consistent, earnest practice over a long period of time. It also favors letting go of its fruits. You must be willing to practice 5 - 6 times a week. And you must be willing to work patiently over many months or even years to achieve flexibility. You must also be willing to forget that you are striving for flexibility. Why? Because this approach is both safer (you are less likely to get injured), and it will teach you patience and awareness of your bodymind. These are far greater fruits than longer hamstrings!

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quetzalcoatl



while trying to get or push further into the stretch.

Sorry, again a misconception. There should not be so much effort on your part. You can take your body to the edge of its flexibility and that is where you let go. No pushing, no trying. Just breathing deeply and at ease, as you mention in your own post. Inhale into the muscle and let go on the exhale. Just let go. You might just find out that the edge shifts by itself.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quetzalcoatl



but it's really difficult for me to say, which works best:

I would say, use the best of both worlds. Combine repetitive movements (go into and out of poses) and stay in poses for a long time. All in the same session.

Why? Because you can be sure of one thing: The length of your muscles is not limiting your flexibility. No, your connective tissue and your mind are. Connective tissue is the stuff that holds your muscles together. It requires a long stretch (say 1 – 2 minutes) before it will let go on a more permanent basis. Your nervous system (mind) has systems built into it to protect your body. One is the stretch reflex. It contracts your muscles when they are called upon to stretch rapidly. To re-train this reflex, move slowly and stay in the pose for a long time. This is the reason that muscles let go when you stay in a pose while your body is comfortable. Yes, your body must be comfortable, so do not work beyond the edge. So, long holds are good for connective tissue release and for circumventing the stretch reflex.

Your mind also has a mechanism called reciprocal inhibition. When one set of muscles (e.g. quadriceps) contract, the opposing pair (hamstring) is told to release. To use this mechanism to your advantage, move into and out of a pose frequently. This will not only help to lengthen the hamstrings but it will also build strength in your quadriceps. This is much safer. A flexible body without strength is at risk. Hatha yoga builds flexibility, strength and stamina when done correctly. So, repetitions are useful for making use of reciprocal inhibition and to strengthen the antagonists.

What does this mean in practice? I will use your example of uttanasana and tight hamstrings. Move into and out of uttanasana slowly a few times. Then remain in the pose for at least 90 sec while releasing on each exhale.

It is even better to use preparatory poses, in this case, a variation of upward stretched legs (urdhva prasarita padasana). Lie on your back. Take hold of the back of your knees with your hands (shoulders are relaxed). On an inhale, lengthen your heels towards the ceiling while stretching your legs. On an exhale relax and bend your knees and elbows. Repeat 6 – 12 times. Then remain in the pose for 1 – 2 minutes, breathing with ease. You can do the same with supta padangusthasana (reclining hand-toe pose). Do repetitions, followed by a longer hold.

All poses should be done with proper alignment. Make sure that you feel the stretch in the belly of the muscle and not in the tendons or joints! This is not trivial. Many yoga practitioners have torn their hamstrings at the point where they connect to the sitting bones. These injuries can take months, if not a year, to heal.

Your practice should be balanced. In this example, do not forget to strengthen your hamstrings as well (bridge pose, locust, camel). This will also help to protect the attachments of your tendons to the bone.

The combination of technique makes optimal use of your body and mind. The repetitions make use of the reciprocal inhibition mechanism and they strengthen the antagonists (quadriceps). The longer hold allows connective tissue to release and re-trains the stretch reflex mechanism. Yogis have made use of these techniques for centuries. Even without knowing the scientific principles. That is why it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to find a teacher. A teacher can show you some good moves, proper alignment, and – more important – (s)he can demonstrate the right frame of mind for yoga practice. This will keep you safe and happy during your long journey on the path of yoga.

And .... just out of curiosity: Why are you asking about hamstring flexibility when you admit to being able to put your palms flat on the floor in uttanasana?
InnerAthlete2010-07-03 16:29:13 +0000 #4
First, I'd like to clarify something before moving more deeply into the inquiry. The postures are never finished, they are never complete, you are never in them. You are, instead always moving in TO them. In this way we are able to accept ourselves for who we are AND move forward (grow) toward a certain expression of the pose which may be completely elusive.

Your question, as it relates to being in the asana, appears to rely on this premise:

Quote:

Just that if you're not yet flexible enough, this won't work so well.

There are some practices where the student is expected to fit the practice and others where the practice fits the student. In a practice of the first sort the premise holds. In a practice of the second sort it does not.

I teach in the second sort and when the current nature of the student's physical form cannot reach a full(er) expression of the pose, then the pose is modified using props. In this way students can have an inflexibility of body that is not an obstacle which is, at the same time, an obstacle. That is yoga. The presence of contradictory but complementary elements.

The work in the musculo-skeletal system is far more mindful than a pushing. Ultimately, in Yoga, the answer to this question should be found in one's own body (try them all and report back to us your findings in your body).

My personal choice would not include repetitions of poses (unless for specific purpose) as that tends, over time, to lead to pose degradation and thus injury. Likewise, remaining "as long as possible" in a posture can also facilitate pose degradation. So the student has to find the place where the benefits are maximized and the injuries reduced.

Short Answer

For the flexibility of muscles you will need to eat, rest, feel and think properly AND then do your pose with your mind in that muscle, gently encouraging it to lengthen from belly to attachments.
Quetzalcoatl2010-07-03 16:40:47 +0000 #5
I have to split this post because it's too long. I'm a quoter, *shrugs*

Hi Willem,

thanks for your help, you have introduced me to some concepts I never even heard about: Very good. I'm still only beginning to get into it, found some books and websites to inform myself and will do so before I might approach you with further questions.

But let me go through it, I can drop a few notes on the misconception part at least. :-D

Quote:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quetzalcoatl

What is the fastest way to achieve the necessary flexibility?

Your question about flexibility and yoga is a legitimate one. After all, yoga is known for its prowess to increase flexibility, to reduce stress, to improve concentration, and to create an overall sense of well-being. However, the question on how to quickly achieve flexibility is not legitimate. At least not in my mind and not within the context of hatha yoga.

Why not? Because hatha yoga has nothing to do with aggressive goal seeking. Instead, yoga favors consistent, earnest practice over a long period of time. It also favors letting go of its fruits. You must be willing to practice 5 - 6 times a week. And you must be willing to work patiently over many months or even years to achieve flexibility. You must also be willing to forget that you are striving for flexibility. Why? Because this approach is both safer (you are less likely to get injured), and it will teach you patience and awareness of your bodymind. These are far greater fruits than longer hamstrings!

I mostly agree with what you say. I practice every day for at least an hour (+ Shavasana + theory) and I know that it will take years to get to an ultimate flexibility (= nothing left to stretch). I also agree that forgetting about the goal I am seeking is the preferable attitude (in anything you do), but this won't work unless I have complete confidence about the way to get there. If I am unsure wether what I am doing is good and correct, it will keep my mind occupied. Right?

Going a shortest way seems natural to me, again: In anything I do. It does not mean to rush there in some hectic way, it only means to go from A to B, undistracted by an unnecessary rest of the alphabet. This of course includes to go a way that is safe, since injury will only slow me down.

Therefore I need to know what I do, why I do it, must be convinced that it is the best, shortest, safest way. Only if I have that confidence, I can forget about goals and the way and just do a routine.

Is that agreeable?

Quote:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quetzalcoatl

while trying to get or push further into the stretch.

Sorry, again a misconception. There should not be so much effort on your part. You can take your body to the edge of its flexibility and that is where you let go. No pushing, no trying. Just breathing deeply and at ease, as you mention in your own post. Inhale into the muscle and let go on the exhale. Just let go. You might just find out that the edge shifts by itself.

I read about this and I agree to some degree. But from my bit of experience I'd say this will only work with Asanas like Uttanasana or the scary Halasana, where nature can take over via gravity. But what about spinal twists or Asanas like Bhujangasana? How do I let go there? This type is based on pushing and using leverages. If I let go at the edge of such posture, I will flip out of them. Sure I won't push with all or much of my force, but a little pushing seems necessary.

There is one more thing about this: As a beginner, my body is quite rusty. I agree that I still could improve flexibility with just either using a minimal force or only rely on gravity and that it will also be the safest way possible. But I wouldn't agree that at such a starting point applying force should be a no go, because the risk of injury is much smaller, than when you're already stretched to some degree. Take Uttanasana as a good example again: When I started, I could barely reach the floor with my fingertips. I didn't think that my tendons or muscles would snap if I forced myself further into the stretch another half inch. Now that I can put my hands flat on the floor, it's a different story already, because the risk of injury increases. There is not so much latitude left and the progress slows down.

So my conception would be: At the beginning it is good to apply some force to get that rust off. I compare that with a rusty leverage, to get such one moving, I have to apply some force at first or else it won't move at all or very and unneccesary slowly. Sure the force may not be too big or else the leverage will break, but how should it start moving if I used none at all? Once the first layer of rust is gone, the movement can be improved by repetition and applying very little force for a longer duration.

Wrong?

And this question:

Quote:

And .... just out of curiosity: Why are you asking about hamstring flexibility when you admit to being able to put your palms flat on the floor in uttanasana?

I'm asking about stretching in general, Uttanasana is only an example I picked because I can describe it more easily than the Asanas I am having more difficulties with (triangles, Prasarita-Padottanasana). But also in Uttanasana, I'm not "there" yet, there is still a gap between my trunk and the legs. I get the hands down, but it's on the outermost limits of my flexibility. I have to be warmed up and stretched already, then I can stay there for only a few seconds (maybe 10). One reason why I have posted my question is, that I am now in a region of flexibility where I haven't been since I lost my natural childhood-flexibility.
Quetzalcoatl2010-07-03 16:04:20 +0000 #6
Now onto your advice for the practice:

Quote:

Why? Because you can be sure of one thing: The length of your muscles is not limiting your flexibility. No, your connective tissue and your mind are. Connective tissue is the stuff that holds your muscles together. It requires a long stretch (say 1 – 2 minutes) before it will let go on a more permanent basis. Your nervous system (mind) has systems built into it to protect your body. One is the stretch reflex. It contracts your muscles when they are called upon to stretch rapidly. To re-train this reflex, move slowly and stay in the pose for a long time. This is the reason that muscles let go when you stay in a pose while your body is comfortable. Yes, your body must be comfortable, so do not work beyond the edge. So, long holds are good for connective tissue release and for circumventing the stretch reflex.

Thanks, I will do so. I started using blocks (acutally a pile of books) in Utthita-Trikonasana, do you agree that's a good idea? And what about bending the knee? I'd say that in the triangles, the focus is on the spine and the legs position is more important as a framework to have a position that allows the spine to be bend. Is it ok to bend the knee during the long hold or should that be avoided?

Quote:

Your mind also has a mechanism called reciprocal inhibition.

Thanks for the keyword, very valuable!

Quote:

When one set of muscles (e.g. quadriceps) contract, the opposing pair (hamstring) is told to release. To use this mechanism to your advantage, move into and out of a pose frequently. This will not only help to lengthen the hamstrings but it will also build strength in your quadriceps. This is much safer. A flexible body without strength is at risk. Hatha yoga builds flexibility, strength and stamina when done correctly. So, repetitions are useful for making use of reciprocal inhibition and to strengthen the antagonists.

Yes, I will focus more on strength.

Quote:

What does this mean in practice? I will use your example of uttanasana and tight hamstrings. Move into and out of uttanasana slowly a few times. Then remain in the pose for at least 90 sec while releasing on each exhale.

Have already begun to do so, I couldn't say I notice any difference, but besides that I've also got a minor cold, I guess the results won't come over night.

Quote:

It is even better to use preparatory poses, in this case, a variation of upward stretched legs (urdhva prasarita padasana). Lie on your back. Take hold of the back of your knees with your hands (shoulders are relaxed). On an inhale, lengthen your heels towards the ceiling while stretching your legs. On an exhale relax and bend your knees and elbows. Repeat 6 – 12 times. Then remain in the pose for 1 – 2 minutes, breathing with ease. You can do the same with supta padangusthasana (reclining hand-toe pose). Do repetitions, followed by a longer hold.

Urdhva-Prasarita-Padasana is already part of my programm, I do sun salutations to warm up and then follow Iyengar's course given in Light on Yoga, here's my current list of Asanas:

Quote:

Pranamasana

Hasta-Uttanasana

Uttanasana

Ashva-Sanchalanasana

Chaturanga-Dandasana

Ashtanga-Namaskara

Bhujangasana

Adho-Mukha-Shvanasana

Ashva-Sanchalanasana

Uttanasana

Hasta-Uttanasana

Pranamasana

---

Tadasana

Vrikshasana

Utthita-Trikonasana

Utthita-Parshvakonasana

Virabhadrasana I

Virabhadrasana II

Parshvottanasana

Parivritta-Trikonasana

Prasarita-Padottanasana I

Urdhva-Prasarita-Padasana

Paripurna-Navasana

Ardha-Navasana

Salamba-Sarvangasana I

Halasana

Shavasana

Would you suggest a change in the sequence? I'm very reluctant to do such a thing, but I'd at least listen to any suggestion. Strength seem to be covered, just that strength-Asanas are not in a very close context with the postures they might be good for. From what you're generally suggesting, I'd think that the Virabhadrasanas should be done before the triangles (after Vriksahasana). On the other hand won't my strength increase within a session, so it should be ok. But I am pretty much only trusting Iyengar and therefore do not/gave up altering the sequence.

Quote:

All poses should be done with proper alignment. Make sure that you feel the stretch in the belly of the muscle and not in the tendons or joints! This is not trivial. Many yoga practitioners have torn their hamstrings at the point where they connect to the sitting bones. These injuries can take months, if not a year, to heal.

The very thought scares the hell outta me. I'm serious. I am very careful.

Quote:

Your practice should be balanced. In this example, do not forget to strengthen your hamstrings as well (bridge pose, locust, camel). This will also help to protect the attachments of your tendons to the bone.

Considering my program: Should I add these Asanas or am I good enough?

Quote:

The combination of technique makes optimal use of your body and mind. The repetitions make use of the reciprocal inhibition mechanism and they strengthen the antagonists (quadriceps). The longer hold allows connective tissue to release and re-trains the stretch reflex mechanism. Yogis have made use of these techniques for centuries. Even without knowing the scientific principles. That is why it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to find a teacher. A teacher can show you some good moves, proper alignment, and – more important – (s)he can demonstrate the right frame of mind for yoga practice. This will keep you safe and happy during your long journey on the path of yoga.

I'd love to have a teacher, I'm not in any way rejecting to get one for any reason that has to do with Yoga itself. I think I'll go and see one sometime this summer.

Thanks again for your effort. :) Do you have a website or something to find out more about you?

------------

Some links:

Advanced book:

books.google.com/books?id=qtCJa7zI8gEC

Interesting article from Yoga Journal:

books.google.com/boo...CeoDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA92

Stretching FAQ:

stason.org/TULARC/sports/stretching/

about the stretch reflex:

stason.org/TULARC/sp...-Stretch-Reflex.html

about reciprocal inhibition:

stason.org/TULARC/sp...tion-Stretching.html
Willem2010-07-03 17:55:27 +0000 #7
Hello Quetzalcoatl,

You're welcome. Quite a long reply on your part. Instead of reacting at in detail I'll leave you a few notes.

You are a very committed student of hatha yoga. This is wonderful.

You are searching for the best method. Excellent. Books are good, dvd's are good, this forum is good. (Good) teachers are better, at least in the beginning, until you awaken your inner teacher. Never forget that yoga was an oral tradition once. Some things are shared in class that cannot be written down or grasped by the thinking mind. So by all means, take some lessons this summer.

The point I tried to convey is that yoga is about the process, the journey, and much less about the final destination. There is no such thing as ultimate flexibility or ultimate strength or .... You will discover that your objective for doing yoga evolves with your practice. Sometimes the path looks like a tortuous mountain road, and you will be revisiting the same point may times, always from a different vantage point. At other times the path looks like a straightforward journey from A to B. But then you discover that the "B" looks very different from "B" than it looked from "A". To complicate matters, there are many parallel paths, each with a valid methodology. Therefore, it is worthwhile to follow one teacher or one school for a number of years. In the end it is up to you to discover what is best for you.

In my opinion, the point about "letting go" is valid for all asana, irrespective of your relationship to gravity. In the poses you mention (bhujangasana, twists) it is a mental attitude that will lead you to the use of appropriate physical effort. I'm very much influenced by the principle that a pose should be both steady and comfortable. And that you should relax the effort (Patanjali's yoga sutras II-46 thru II-48 ). The inner experience of a yoga pose is more important than the way it looks. In some strange way, it does not really matter whether or not you can touch the floor with your fingertips, your palms, or not at all in uttanasana. From this point of view, I don't like the idea of using force to remove initial rust. My first priority for new students is teaching awareness of the bodymind. Everything else comes later.

I really do not feel that I should comment on individual asanas or your program without seeing you in person. So I won't. As to props and aids (like blocks and bending your knee) use them if it feels good to you. Do whatever is needed to feel comfortable. And if you like your current program, by all means stick to it.

I like the link from yoga journal and it covers most of what I wrote earlier. This is the way I teach: I often ask my students to perform a (preparatory) pose dynamically. I follow this up by a longer stay in the pose. The number of repetitions and the duration all depend on .... the students. The other sports articles could be interesting, but in many ways they are irrelevant here. Hatha yoga is about so much more than flexibility (or strength or endurance for that matter).

I do have a website, but most of it is in Dutch. It does not really matter who I am. I'm just a teacher of (hatha) yoga, and have been influenced by many teachers, including Mukunda Stiles, who is the originator of this website. More important, I consider myself to be an eternal student of yoga, just like yourself.
Quetzalcoatl2010-07-03 17:33:52 +0000 #8
Hi InnerAthlete.

Quote:

First, I'd like to clarify something before moving more deeply into the inquiry. The postures are never finished, they are never complete, you are never in them. You are, instead always moving in TO them. In this way we are able to accept ourselves for who we are AND move forward (grow) toward a certain expression of the pose which may be completely elusive.

Hm. Then what would you call that state when you have reached the point of a movement, where you (have to) stop it?

Quote:

Your question, as it relates to being in the asana, appears to rely on this premise:

Quote:

Just that if you're not yet flexible enough, this won't work so well.

There are some practices where the student is expected to fit the practice and others where the practice fits the student. In a practice of the first sort the premise holds. In a practice of the second sort it does not.

I teach in the second sort and when the current nature of the student's physical form cannot reach a full(er) expression of the pose, then the pose is modified using props. In this way students can have an inflexibility of body that is not an obstacle which is, at the same time, an obstacle. That is yoga. The presence of contradictory but complementary elements.

When you modify a pose, you turn it into another one. It's no longer the pose you initially wanted the student to do. You modify it, because the student cannot do that pose (yet). And I guess that you will be working with the student to help them to finally be able to reach the full expression of the actual pose, won't you? If they by all means cannot do it, because their anatomy won't let them, you surely won't break their bones, but still you will try to help them to do a pose as good as possible, for them.

Quote:

The work in the musculo-skeletal system is far more mindful than a pushing. Ultimately, in Yoga, the answer to this question should be found in one's own body (try them all and report back to us your findings in your body).

Will do, but so far I can say, that pushing, even actually with brute force, which I'd never suggest to anybody, worked fine for me. It provided me with a basic flexibility that allows me to reach expressions of the poses that have me experience their actual benefits. I might've been able to get there with props too, but I could also get there with force and I guess it was faster.

After all: Hatha Yoga is the forceful Yoga.

Quote:

My personal choice would not include repetitions of poses (unless for specific purpose) as that tends, over time, to lead to pose degradation and thus injury. Likewise, remaining "as long as possible" in a posture can also facilitate pose degradation. So the student has to find the place where the benefits are maximized and the injuries reduced.

How would that degradation occur? For what reason? After all, repetition is the method to learn anything. Remaining in a pose for a long time could only lead to degradation, if one will start making compromises with the posture to be able to remain there a little longer. This is what I had been asking Willem in my last post: If it's ok to bend a knee in a triangle to be able to remain there longer. Would you suggest not to bend the knee? I am undecided here, I agree it's a degradation, but then again, the pose is not about a straight leg, but about twisting the spine. Is that a misconception..?

Quote:

Short Answer

For the flexibility of muscles you will need to eat, rest, feel and think properly AND then do your pose with your mind in that muscle, gently encouraging it to lengthen from belly to attachments.

And how do I "encourage" it?

I have a background in Kung Fu. There, you exercise very hard. You also are very careful, because you do not wish to injure yourself, so you have to balance the hard exercise with caution. What I'm reading here, one should avoid any hard exercise, any force. The only reason I can find is to avoid injury. But since you can exercise hard and avoid injury, I don't quite understand why this should not be combinable. Are you guys just being cautious not to give advice over the web that might lead to injury, when people misjudge their physical potentials..?
Quetzalcoatl2010-07-03 18:36:23 +0000 #9
Hi Willem.

Quote:

The point I tried to convey is that yoga is about the process, the journey, and much less about the final destination.

Agreed. Yoga is the process and not the destination. But:

Quote:

There is no such thing as ultimate flexibility or ultimate strength or ....

There are such things. ;) Otherwise, flexiblity and strength were unlimited.

Quote:

You will discover that your objective for doing yoga evolves with your practice. Sometimes the path looks like a tortuous mountain road, and you will be revisiting the same point may times, always from a different vantage point. At other times the path looks like a straightforward journey from A to B. But then you discover that the "B" looks very different from "B" than it looked from "A".

Agreed again. Yet if you had no reason to step onto and move along a path, you simply would not do it. Without a reason, you would do nothing, that's why the universe invented pain and pleasure, to have beings with some sort of free will do things to avoid pain and experience pleasure.

And since an Asana-practice usually comes with pain and discomfort, you'd be crazy to do it and embrace pain, if there was no higher goal behind such practice.

That goal of the process that is called Yoga, is to shut up the mind and the heart, to get rid of thoughts and emotions. It's said, this would be a good thing; let's leave it at that. Asanas help, because they create a healthy body and one that is strong enough to practice shutting up the mind and the heart. You sure can and should also practice the Asanas themselves with a calm mind and heart, just like you could and should do any other practice that way, from gardening to cleaning toilets. If it's your thing you might even focus your Yoga on calming mind and heart via the physical practices of Asanas. But that is not the actual Ashtanga Yoga as described by Patanjali. There, Asanas are only a preparation, to get rid of any distraction that comes from the body.

So it is a valid method to blend out thoughts about the destination of one's path, but only when blending out any thought at all. You should always be focused on what you do, because any thought of what's behind is a distraction and therefore takes away mind-power, concentration-power, and thereby reduces your strengths and capacities to fullfill the actual task you're currently occupied with. But for me, saying and thinking things like "the goal is not important" creates the conflict I already mentioned: If it's not important, then why would I do anything that get's me there and that comes with discomfort? Why would I not stop any practice that is anything but pure pleasure?

So if I speak I say: There is a goal. There is ultimate flexibilty. Try to get from A to B. But don't have your mind occupied with such thoughts during the practice, as they are distracting and they can be dangerous because they might cause you to rush into an injury.

Quote:

In my opinion, the point about "letting go" is valid for all asana, irrespective of your relationship to gravity. In the poses you mention (bhujangasana, twists) it is a mental attitude that will lead you to the use of appropriate physical effort.

I agree once again.

Quote:

I'm very much influenced by the principle that a pose should be both steady and comfortable. And that you should relax the effort (Patanjali's yoga sutras II-46 thru II-48 ).

Agreed!! But you have to get there first, because no pose is steady and comfortable when you begin practicing. Not even Shavasana.

Quote:

The inner experience of a yoga pose is more important than the way it looks. In some strange way, it does not really matter whether or not you can touch the floor with your fingertips, your palms, or not at all in uttanasana. From this point of view, I don't like the idea of using force to remove initial rust. My first priority for new students is teaching awareness of the bodymind. Everything else comes later.

Surely a valid method.
Quetzalcoatl2010-07-03 17:07:58 +0000 #10
Hey.

I found this text of the in my opinion greatest living Yoga master (I know of), Dharma Mittra. He expresses what I believe much better than I could, here's the link:

www.ecomall.com/greenshopping/asanas.htm

Please note particularly this passage:

Quote:

Students often ask me how they can go deeper into a posture. In a way they are asking the wrong question. Form, breath, and focus are much more important than range of motion. As long as you're aligned and breathing, don't worry about how far you can go. That said, you must learn to relax in the pose in order to master it. The first few times you cross your legs in Lotus Pose, say, it's extremely painful. After a few weeks of practice, you'll be able to spend some minutes in it. Eventually you will feel comfortable.

As I understand it, he says that at first you will experience pain and then, with practice, you will eventually feel comfortable. So feeling comfortable and being relaxed in an Asana is the goal of the practice and to get there (which is wanted), the student has to go through pain and effort and they have to use force - because if they didn't use force, where would the pain come from?

I also looked up the Sutras mentioned by Willem; last time I read them was more than a decade ago. Here are some translations of them:

Quote:

Mukunda Stiles, Structural Yoga Therapy, pg. 13

46

Yoga pose

is a steady

and comfortable position.

47

Yoga pose is mastered

by relaxation of effort,

to create a lessening

of natural tendency

for restlessness,

and identification

of oneself as living

within

the infinite stream of life.

48

From that

perfection of yoga posture,

duality,

such as praise and criticism,

ceases

to be a disturbance.

49

When this is acquired

then naturally follows

a cessation

of the movements

of inspiration and expiration;

this is called

regulation of breath.

Quote:

Hartranft, Chip - The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, pg. 37

46

The postures of meditation should embody steadiness and ease.

47

This occurs as all effort relaxes and coalescence arises, revealing that the body and the infinite universe are indivisible.

48

Then one is no longer disturbed by the play of opposites.

49

With effort relaxing, the flow of inhalation and exhalation can be brought to a standstill; this is called breath regulation.

Hartranft comments: "Posture, or asana, is the bodily aspect of Patanjali's holistic system. Here the term refers only to those postures suitable for prolonged immobility."

Quote:

James Haughton Woods, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, pgs. 192 - 193

46

Stable-and-easy-posture.

47

By relaxation of effort or by a [mental] state-of-balance with reference to Ananta -

48

Thereafter he is unassailed by extremes.

49

When there is [stability of posture], the restraint of breath cutting off the flow of inspiration and expiration [follows].

Quote:

Trevor Leggett, Sankara on the Yoga Sutras, excerpt online: www.leggett.co.uk/books/sys.htm

46

Posture is to be firm and pleasant

47

By relaxing effort and by samadhi (samapatti) on infinity

48

From that, he becomes immune to the opposites

49

Pranayama is to sit in the posture and cut off the flow of in breath and out-breath

Quote:

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, excerpt online: www.iyengar-yoga.com...science/class15.html

46

"Sthira sukham asanam." - "Asana is perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit."

47

"Prayatna saithilya ananta samapattibhyam." - "Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached."

48

"Tatah dvandvah anabhighatah." - "From then on, the saddhaka is undisturbed by dualities."

Quote:

BonGiovanni, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, online: www.sacred-texts.com/hin/yogasutr.htm

46

The posture should be steady and comfortable.

47

In effortless relaxation, dwell mentally on the Endless with utter attention.

48

From that there is no disturbance from the dualities.

49

When that exists, control of incoming and outgoing energies is next.

Quote:

Charles Johnston, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, online: www.gutenberg.org/ca...pub/2526/pg2526.html

46

Right poise must be firm and without strain.

47

Right poise is to be gained by steady and temperate effort, and by setting the heart upon the everlasting.

48

The fruit of right poise is the strength to resist the shocks of infatuation or sorrow.

49

When this is gained, there follows the right guidance of the life-currents, the control of the incoming and outgoing breath.

I think:

The term "Asana" is, as noted by Hartranft, only referring to the sitting posture that is used to do the following steps of Ashtanga Yoga, beginning with Pranayama (as it is written in Sutra II 49) and continued with the other stages. These require a pose that allows immobility over a long period. The lotus-seat is probably the perfect example of what the Sutras are talking about. Here one can sit truly without any effort for hours and be focused on Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana and Dyana. But the Sutra is not saying anything about what's going on in today's Asana-classes in today's "Yoga"-studios.

The interpretation of Sutra II 48 by Iyengar is in line with my viewpoint:

"Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached."

Effort becomes effortless. This is a process, effortlessness is the goal, and not the starting point. Without effort, this goal cannot be reached.

And the "amount" of effort (= amount of force) is depending on the physical capacity of the student and there is no general answer possible. Just don't overrate and through that hurt yourself.
core7892010-07-03 18:13:41 +0000 #11
I don't think there's necessarily a right answer. It would depend on the purpose and point of the approach.

I would go with endurance,hahaha, or holding the pose for longer.

Remember that asana is just one tool in the cupboard , and there there are other limbs per patanjali and of course tools,that can adress other levels of flexibility.Flexibility is not just confined and exclusive to the body.Also all the levels of being, the tools and limbs can and do intersect at points.

The best yoga practice is a complete one that uses an integration of tools ,or tool-sets even-for that given individual,and then so effectively balances that with actually living in the external world we all know(or think we do) and are familiar with- the demands,and stresses, it can sometimes impose on us...

A fast and repetitivie practice can lead or increase the chance of injury because our mind and/or awareness is not enough in our body.

Some hatha schools hold for up to 5-10 mins(sivananda e.g). I generally favour this apporach, for suitable individuals, as it tends to cultivate endurance, concentration(meditation), a letting-go,i.e surrender( devotional attitude) and one-pointedness of mind(dharana,dhyana), all qualities that are employed & manifest in a deeper and more fruitful yoga practice. If you move quickly there is more of a risk of just doing gymnastics or a work-out.It's all about balance. people that move quickly could be restless andor addicted to moving about and the physciality of asana and muscle-strectching in itself. Yoga has the potential to wwork on much deeper levels of our being if we embrace it completely and use all the tools at our disposal.

people say you should treat ashtanga 8-llimbed yoga like a stair-case.I think an integrated apporach might be more effective drawing on all the limbs together.

If the body is tense and the monkey-mind is restless, then you're less likely to fitinto that yoga ideal of steady/effortless/easy and comfortable posture that the sutras of patanjali refers to.

How do you increase flexibility fast??

You embrace all the limbs and a complete yoga practice that includes pranayama & meditiative tools and techniques in addition to asana. At some point you then may well ask yourself what it means to be flexible and your goalposts and your goals or paradigms( even though we ae told we should not have goals or expectations in yoga- these being karmic attachments) including the means to acquiring them, i.e your personal sadhana, may shift.

Reply

Name:
Content:


Other posts in this category