Flexibility

Definition - What does Flexibility mean?

In physiological terms, flexibility is defined as the ability of a joint or a group of joints and muscles to effectively move through an unrestricted and pain-free range of motion. With regard to joints specifically, flexibility is the degree of extension that its tissues are capable of.

Flexibility is specific to individual joints, so it is possible to have some joints and muscle groups that are mobile and flexible, while others are tight and inflexible.

Flexibility varies widely from person to person, and is influenced by an array of factors such as anatomical structure, genetics, age, gender, history of injury and activity levels. Minimum ranges of motion are required in order to maintain joint and overall body health, and decreased flexibility can lead to abnormal stress on tissues and structures both around and distant from the initial site of inflexibility.

Yoga is one of the most well-known and effective means of improving flexibility. Most yoga asanas encourage muscles to lengthen and release, whilst also building strength that may support the movement of a joint. Additionally, yoga helps to reduce fascial tightness and neuromuscular inhibition, both of which can reduce flexibility.

Yogapedia explains Flexibility

Flexibility is influenced by the mobility of the soft tissues that surround a joint, including muscles, ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, fascia and skin. Inactivity and lack of stretching can lead to these soft tissues shortening over time, thereby reducing the range of motion and overall flexibility. Improving flexibility is a gradual process that requires regular practice.

Yoga asana support the body in improving flexibility in two main ways. Firstly, it stimulates and stretches fascia, a connective tissue that surrounds and permeates bodily tissues. When fascia is restricted or tight, it can limit the range of motion of nearby joints and muscles. Secondly, yoga trains the nervous system to allow the muscles to release and extend.

A well-rounded yoga class also tends to target all joints and muscle groups in the body, thereby supporting a balanced range of motion in all possible directions.

Additionally, yoga asana incorporates stretching, one of the most effective means of improving flexibility. Asana practice generally includes various types of stretching, such as:

  • Static Stretching - in which the body is moved into a position that lengthens a target muscle, before holding for up to 60 seconds.

  • Dynamic Stretching - where the body moves in and out of a position that lengthens a muscle, gradually increasing the range of motion of the joint.

  • Active Isolated Stretching - in which the joint is moved through a complete range of motion, holding the end point only briefly before returning to the starting point.

The impact of stretching on flexibility has numerous benefits for the body, including:

  • Better posture.

  • Reduced muscular tightness.

  • Decreased risk of injury and improved injury rehabilitation.

  • Maintenance of healthy cartilage.

  • Reduced muscle fatigue.

  • Increased blood supply to joint structures.

  • Improved range of motion.

  • Enhanced athletic performance.

  • Reduced stress levels.

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