I think my fav all time comment from people as to why they can’t do yoga is that they are inflexible. Of course using this as an excuse not to do yoga is like saying I’m too dirty to have a shower. But why are some of us more floppy than others and some of us rigid like a board? How can yoga help us overcome our stiffness so we can flop our way all through life?
Being flexible is not going to help you be a better person but it might improve your overall happiness. But being flexible will help us with our joints and tissues especially as we age. Sometimes when we say we are stiff it is not because of our muscles but more because the tissue that covers our muscles ( the fascia: which is like a cobweb over our internal bits) becomes dry or drier than it is. The connective tissue unlike muscle is dry and porous. A really helpful yoga practice for your joints and connective tissue is yin yoga. It baths the joints in Synovial fluid and helps stretch and lengthen connective tissue. Yin is especially helpful if you are a gym junkie especially if you do weight lifting because this can shorten the muscles and make you more contracted than you need to be. Also if you run, the long held poses of yin can help stretch the hips which in turn helps open the backs of the legs, which often tighten in runners.
So some of us stiffen through exercise but some of us stiffen through inactivity. Doing nothing or worse doing nothing at a desk will have all your body rebel and tighten. This is OK for brief periods of time but over time you will eventually just become stiff. Stiff in your back, stiff on waking, stiff in your shoulders.
Some of us stiffen through more subtle ways. Our minds and our actions. Every action, thought, deed and word has an energetic vibration in our body. It is very difficult to separate the workings of the mind/emotions from the body. Harboring emotions, fear, anxiety, stress, anger will all find a place to rest in your body. In yoga we say the ‘issues are in the tissues.’ What this means is when we hold on to some negative emotion it gets stored. When we get irritated we may feel it in the shoulders, when we feel restricted or frustrated we may feel it in the hips and stored anger may be felt in the neck. Remember that saying ‘ he’s a pain in the neck!’ Frustration and anger could manifest in spinal tension, heartbreak and depression could linger in the chest, and emotional pain from the past could lie dormant in the hip flexors. It is not unusual for students to burst into tears while doing some poses such as pigeon, or forward folds as their tension and emotions are released.
Practice for today: The body is the diary of our lives and we write everything on it. Do you have stiffness in your body? Could it be from a long held fear or an emotion? Is there something that you can do today so your body becomes your friend and guide? When we tune into our body we can re write our lives.