Stretching has always been an important part of exercise but I've admittedly always rushed through it or even skipped it all together, mostly because I didn't fully understand the connection. Even when I first started doing yoga I still missed the importance of holding a stretch because I wanted so badly to skip to the 'cool' poses that looked good or move through sequences quickly so I felt like I had some sort of aerobic benefit. It wasn't until I started practicing Ashtanga in Mysore style that I finally understood the connection that I was missing all this time. Moving through the Primary Series means slowing it all down and rebuilding a strong foundation. To my surprise, the Primary Series is mainly made up of intense stretching asanas and very few 'cool' poses. It's built that way so the body is prepared for the more advanced postures that come later and I really didn't realize how unprepared I really was for something more complicated. I always chalked up my lack of flexibility by trying to prove that my arms were somehow shorter than everyone else which is hilarious and also something that almost everyone says in the beginning of the Primary Series. *Cue the T-Rex trying to do yoga meme.
Turns out, after hours and hours of practice these last few months, my arms actually are capable of more, as are the muscles in every single part of my body. I can actually see it myself by looking at these pictures in this post. My legs are split further, my arm can bind around my back with my leg in half lotus and I can actually grab my foot with my hand. These are all things that felt impossible only just a few months ago. I wasn't trained as a dancer (pretty obvious) and there are people far further along who can fully extend in Dancer pose, for example, but seeing progress in someone who isn't naturally flexible or trained flexible, is much more inspiring. So I always try to just look to my past self to inspire my present self and even my future self. It's about how far your own body can progress and involves some extra introspection.
- With every inhale, get a little longer; With every exhale, get a little deeper Getting length helps deepen the stretch and allows me to get a little deeper each time. When I think about my breathing in this pattern, I usually find that there's more available than I originally thought.
- Use your core. I was shocked when my teacher explained that I needed to use the muscles in my lower abs to propel my stretch and fold further. The whole time I cursed my horrible hamstrings but stretching is more complex than just isolating one muscle group. As true with most everything, a strong core holds the foundational key to progress.
- Hold for 5 breaths of equal inhale/exhale. Counting each breath evenly settles the mind, increases focus and also makes sure that the stretch is being held long enough. I usually count to three for each inhale and then count to three on the exhale during my five count breath.
*If you're ever in New Orleans and interested in trying Ashtanga let me know! My teacher, Stephen Link, runs his own program as well as teaching at one of my favorite studios (Reyn). He's incredibly knowledgeable and most of my knowledge of this comes from his teachings/experiences. Would be fun to practice together x
I really love the adidas Supernova tights because they are cut to stretch and move with the body in motion. They feel like butter on the skin and the waistband doesn't dig in to my hips when I'm folding. I shot this in Tulum mid-day and it was super hot so I went with the lightest weight bra that still had support. The techfit pieces have ventilation points to help stay cool. I'm usually always in just a sport bra for everything because I like the freedom of not having a tee slipping around when I'm moving. Plus, it all packs well because it's more light-weight! Click to shop!