I've said from the start of my practice that flexibility is the one thing I learn relatively fast. I'm not saying I went from being as tough as a tree to bending like rubber in a week, but I know my body adjusts well.
Back Bending and Hip Openers are my favourites when it comes to flexibility.
I've been asked to share progress for the splits and dancers pose, along with any tips I might have, which I am more than happy to! I'll also include at the end of the post, a few of my other asanas that I've progressed in. I truly wish I took more photos and videos at the start of my practice, but unfortunately I only took them for yoga challenges and the occasional "I like this asana" photo.
I was a huge fan of working out without a proper warm up, usually because part of my workout always started slower so it kind of built in, so when I started yoga I was just as lazy to warm up with anything.
Still, warm ups are the most important part. Don't try to go into a split as the first part of your yoga practice. Do lunges, stretches, a few simpler asanas. Let your body get ready and prepare itself for something deeper. Once I learned that, flexibility was so much more enjoyable with no pain and no stress. It doesn't matter if you need to warm up for 10 minutes or 30 minutes or even an hour, do what you need to and let it work.
Equipment (Straps, yoga wheels, blocks etc)
There is no shame in using straps, wheels, blocks or anything else you want. Grab a chair, some books, look up a how to video. IT WILL HELP.
Just because someone on Instagram is able to do the slits with her hips flat on the ground after 5 months of practice doesn't mean you should be able to in the same time frame, so if after 5 months you need blocks, get the blocks and be proud of it.
It might seem like a waste to buy it just for one or two asanas, but even when you have mastered the ones you're practicing now, all your equipment WILL come in handy later on, and sometimes we all take a step back and want to grab a strap or a block, I know I do,
Breathing through the stretches and flows is so important. It's easy to forget to breathe when we're trying something that's tough. Each inhale and exhale will help you through the stretch. It's almost part of the warm up routine and you might find with each breath the asana feel just a little bit more manageable.
Know Your Limits and Do NOT Force It
This means, if your best for a split is 5 inches off the ground, then that's your best right now. If the most you can bend your back in a wheel is with your hands and feet at a metre apart that's fine! Know what your limits are and accept them, work on improving them with time and practice, not going from 5 inches to 1 inch in a day.
Never bounce your way into a deeper split, Never ask someone to push your hips down or your leg further when you are not ready. It will come on your own time and as long as your have a consistent practice.
Forcing yourself into a position will just increase your risk of injury and set you back even longer - which we all know you do not want!
Learning yoga on your own, at home, is completely fine. But if you are able to afford the time and money, going to a class, or even booking a 1 on 1 session will help tremendously. A yoga teacher will be able to tell you things your mum or friend or sibling won't be able to - unless of course they're an expert too! In that case, lucky you!!
If you're picking a class, I highly suggest choosing a smaller class, it's easier for a teacher to step in and help you or for you to ask questions when there are 5 students in the studio than when there are 20. Please, don't be scared to ask for help in a class either, it can seem scary at first but it's worth asking if you're not sure how to do a posture or if you need assistance.
No amount of videos or books will be able to help you get what a teacher can help you spot and correct in 10 seconds. All it took was one class for my yoga teacher to tell me the reason why i always lost balance in Sugar Cane Pose was because even when it looked like my hips were squared in a video i recorded, they were not. (I record my practice and watch it back to check my form etc) and he helped me learn how to correct it and feel the difference between what I thought was right, and what actually was right.
I'm comparing the earliest photo i can find from my laptop or my instagram page, to the most recent photo I took of the same asana, which was taken today (4th November 2015) and the splits photo was taken on the 3rd of November 2015, so the range between each pair of photos is about 12-14 months of progress.
Wheel / Urdhva Dhanurasana
Dancer Pose/ Natarajasana
Camel Pose/ Ustrasana
Splits / Hanumanasana
Bow Pose / Dhanurasana
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