why i don't talk about flexibility in yoga

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Why I Don’t Talk About Flexibility in Yoga

Flexibility in yoga is more than your ability to stretch a muscle. In this post, you’re going to learn the different types of movement your body makes, what really happens in postures, and the term I prefer to use when teaching yoga.

Check out more tips on teaching asanas with these blog posts:

And if you want to learn more about anatomy and asanas, you can check out Teach Yoga Asanas Now course.

Prefer videos? Watch Why I Don’t Talk About Flexibility in Yoga:

why i don't like the term flexibility

During our yoga asana practice, or when we’re teaching asanas, we always thinking in terms of flexibility, increasing our flexibility.

I don’t really like the term flexibility, it feels a little restrictive to me, because it doesn’t take into account any of the other structures of the body that contribute to the movement and what creates flexibility in your body.

I would love for you to start thinking about range of motion instead of the term flexibility.

The definition of range of motion is “the capability of a joint to go through it’s complete spectrum of movements.”

types of range of motion

There are several types of range of motion:

  • Flexion
  • Extension
  • Rotation
  • Lateral flexion
  • Abduction
  • Abduction
  • Pronation
  • Supination

An example of flexion would be forward bending. Extension would be an example of back bending. Rotation is when we twist a part of our body.

Lateral flexion is sideways bending like when we move our head ear to shoulder, or bending through the side body like picking up a suitcase.

Abduction is when we take something away from the midline of your body and adduction is when we add it to the midline of your body.

Pronation is when we are turning or rotating inwardly. Supination is when we’re externally rotating.

And that’s going to be something to really keep in mind, because in all of the postures, you’re going to have at least one of these movements if not two, or three. Some postures create flexion and extension. Some create rotation and supination.

Some create extension and rotation. So it’s just going to depend on as you’re going through the postures, what range of motion is happening within that posture.

range of motion in yoga postures

For all of the joints in the body, there is this “normal” or “standard” range.

If you can move beyond that standard range of motion, if you move outside of that range of motion, that’s considered to have “hyper-mobility” in your joints. If you fall below what’s considered normal or standard, then that’s termed “hypo-mobile.”

Those arbitrary number ranges set us up for judgment, self judgments, criticisms, or looking at other people and making a judgment on what we think they should or shouldn’t be in a posture. 

It also creates false beliefs around things. It’s very common for somebody who is hyper-mobile in their joints to be called double-jointed. Well, we know that’s not really possible people can’t have two joints within their body.

factors influencing range of motion in yoga

As I mentioned earlier, when we use the term flexibility, that really tends to have us only focused on muscles, but there are different parts of the body different structures that go into range of motion.

And therefore, there are factors that influence is a person’s degree in their range of motion.

Those are going to be things like:

  • Type of joint
  • Internal resistance
  • Bony structure
  • Tissue elasticity (whether muscle, ligaments, or tendons)

Some of these factors are outside of the control of the individual.

For example, the type of joint and the bone structure. I have no control over what is the structure of my bones. I do have some control of the elasticity in my muscles and the surrounding tissue. But based on my muscles, I might not have the same degree of elasticity as someone else.

FINAL TIPS FOR range of motion in yoga

A simplified way of looking at range of motion is that it is a combination of tissue elasticity and the structure of your bones.

And if you want to learn more about range of motion in yoga postures, check out the Teach Yoga Asanas Now course.

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Shannon with Purple Lotus Yoga
hi! I'm Shannon

For 20 years, I’ve helped women of all ages and sizes to realize their dreams of becoming inspiring yoga teachers. 

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