“I want to become more flexible”

This is a common response to the question “What attracts you to doing a yoga class?”  I don’t think anyone has ever told me they want to come to yoga to get stronger.  However, you might be in for a surprise!  Sadly, our muscular strength declines as we age and personally I don’t think our modern lifestyle helps a great deal.  So many more of us have sedentary jobs these days and exercise becomes another thing to be fitted into the week, rather than happening as a matter of course.

It’s been suggested that building strength should actually take priority over becoming more flexible.  Improving muscle tone helps us to maintain our body weight as muscles consume more calories than fat, even when resting (Yay!).  Muscle strength helps us to improve our posture.  We have greater endurance and are less prone to falls because we have better balance.  Ideally we should focus initially on building core strength and then look to develop the major muscles in the body i.e. arm and leg muscles.  This stops us from relying on smaller weaker muscles that are not up to the job.

A physical yoga practice helps us to build muscle strength in all the key muscle groups.  Our arms and shoulders are worked with weight-bearing postures such as bowing cat or downward-facing dog.  The standing postures build leg strength and balancing postures help develop the core.   By making slow movements we can exercise all the fibres in the muscle, whilst by maintaining a posture we use isometric contraction of the muscles to stay in position.  Another benefit of weight bearing postures (i.e. any posture that uses the body’s weight) is that is strengthens the muscles around the joints, helping to protect them from arthritis in later life.

What’s not to like?!

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