As a professional athlete, my job was essentially to follow orders without question. The results were great at the time. I was bigger, stronger, and faster than at any other time in my life. But the realities of chasing a max bench and squat started setting in only after my playing days were done.
I had aches and pains that prevented me from doing the activities that I loved. The only solution? Do what I always did: Train. Hard. This had been the philosophy drilled into my psyche for many years. Hurt? Work through it. Pain? Walk it off. Only the strong survive. **pound chest and grunt**
Well, no. Only the smart survive.
When I finally summed up the courage and ignored the machismo voice in my head, I hesitantly stepped into my first yoga class. It was a Yoga Tune Up® class in Santa Monica. Humbled would be the most politically correct way of describing how I felt after the class finished. Flexibility was a word that obviously never found its way into my vocabulary. It was time to learn.
Importance of Flexibility
While many people focus on strength and cardiovascular exercise when they enter the gym, it is actually flexibility that should be the primary focus as it is the foundation of physical health. With an injured shoulder or hip you can imagine not being able to reach above your head or taking a full stride when walking. The body will protect itself and prevent you from moving into ranges of motion that cause pain. This is a normal and natural protective mechanism since the body is not in perfect health. This is also why health can often times be gauged by how wide your sphere of movement stretches from your body’s center. Your sphere of potential movement starts with flexibility, since tight muscles can inhibit potential movement in much of the same way as an injury.
Improving flexibility will have an instant and drastic impact on athletic performance and decrease your risk of injury. Needless to say, I don’t talk about bench pressing or squatting anymore. Those are just numbers on a piece of paper that once served to inflate ego. Now, when I wake up in the morning, I move. I feel for tight spots and stretch. My Downward Dog looks more like a pointed arrow than a rainbow. I can comfortably reach down and palm the floor with locked legs. I’m a couple of blind spots away from doing a hand stand without the use of a wall. Oh yeah, and I don’t hurt.
Try this YTU pose called Asymmetrical Uttanasana (and for more like it check out the Quick Fix for Hips videos) to access the flexibility you need to forward bend successfully!