Phone: 303-444-8707 | 2955 Baseline Road Boulder, Colorado 80303 | Email: info@altatherapies.com

Does Yoga Improve Flexibility? 

Does Yoga Improve Flexibility? 

January 2018 

Many people swear by yoga postures, or “asanas,” as a way to improve flexibility. But isn’t yoga just another form of passive stretching? 

Well actually… no. In fact, 

yoga rarely incorporates 

passive stretches. Instead, 

asanas use concepts of 

reciprocal inhibition, 

eccentric lengthening, and 

strengthening through the 

full range of available 

motion to safely lengthen 

muscles. 

Reciprocal inhibition goes like this: if we contract the muscle on the opposite side of the joint to the muscle that is tight, it gives a signal to the tight muscle to relax. This is a normal and natural function. Think about your elbow. If you contract your bicep to bend your elbow, but your tricep doesn’t relax, you wouldn’t be able to bend your elbow. In yoga, when doing a standing forward bend, you lengthen the hamstrings while you focus on drawing the kneecaps up the thighs. That activates the quadriceps muscles, allowing the opposing muscle, the hamstring, to relax. 

Eccentric exercise is controlled lengthening of a muscle. When you go from standing to a forward bend in yoga, you activate the

hamstrings to lengthen and control your torso as it lowers down, building strength throughout the full range of motion. Furthermore, in returning to standing from a forward bend, the muscles activate from a lengthened position, building even more strength. 

If you want to improve flexibility, yoga is a 

great mind-body tool to lengthen muscles 

using reciprocal inhibition, eccentric loading, 

and relaxation. Derya Anderson has her 

doctorate in Physical Therapy and is also a 

certified yoga instructor with advanced 

training in adaptive and restorative yoga. 

Ready for a more flexible you? Call and 

schedule with Derya today.  

Three Ways to Loosen Tight Hamstrings 

Old beliefs die hard. I still see folks throwing a leg on their car bumper and leaning over for a good yank on their hamstring. A cursory stretch should do it, right? Then they head up the trail for a run. They probably haven’t hurt themselves, but really, why bother? (If you need a refresher on how much of a waste of time that is, or how you are actually turning those hamstrings off, click here.) 

So when should you be concerned about 

hamstring flexibility? Stretching does feel good, 

and it can feel especially good for flexible 

people, so if you are already loose, go easy.  

Just stretching for stretching’s sake can cause 

another set of problems. But, if your hamstrings 

scream as you bend over to pick up the pencil 

you dropped, or you can’t cut your toenails, 

keep reading. 

#1 Increasing Strength 

Is your tightness actually due to weakness? When thinking about hamstring tightness, we need to consider the gluteal muscles. Both the hamstrings and the glute muscles are active hip extensors. If your glute muscle is not turning on (perhaps because you have “sitting disease“), then the hamstrings are happy to take over. This

leads to the hammies becoming tight from overuse. In this case, having your therapist check firing patterns and strength can help us figure out the right exercises to balance these muscles and give your hamstrings some rest. For instance, if the bridge exercise causes cramps in the hamstrings, almost certainly you need some work on glute activation.  

How to 

Activate Your 

Glutes 

#2 Pilates and Yoga 

Stretching done the right way can gradually increase your pencil retrieval skills. Yoga and pilates both improve flexibility and strength over time and are also wonderful for motor control. Since weakness can cause tightness, either of these disciplines is helpful — ask your therapist which is best for you.  

#3 Increasing Circulation 

If you have any abdominal congestion, it can wreak havoc on your hamstrings. We don’t know exactly why, but one plausible explanation is that congestion increases intra-abdominal pressure. This puts undue pressure on the pelvic floor. Poor pelvic floor stability limits glute activation, so, again, hamstrings take over. If learning how to activate the glutes isn’t working, getting your lymph system moving, could be your first step.  

How to 

Increase 

Circulation 

Use these techniques to increase abdominal lymphatic circulation and increase hamstring mobility. No change? Then you have good lymphatic circulation, and your hamstrings are tight for another reason.

These are just three ways to improve hamstring flexibility. We haven’t covered lower back issues, nerve restrictions, and the consciousness of letting go – all of which could also be culprits. We are here to make your hamstrings melt like butter. It’s our job to help you! It’s your job to schedule with us today! 

  

Where Are You? 

One unpleasant aspect of running an office like ours is charging a fee when you fail to keep your appointment or cancel with less than 24 business hours notice. The more notice you give, the more likely other people waiting to get in can fill that slot. We appreciate your consideration, so everyone who needs therapy can receive it.  

Our treatments are usually an hour and that time is reserved for you. If you have an appointment you do not keep, we still have to pay our staff and incur office expenses. You can imagine the financial hardship this creates. 

Though the scheduling program is automated to send reminders, occasionally there is a glitch in the system. We send reminders as a courtesy, but it’s your responsibility to know when you have an appointment and to check with the clinic to confirm, if needed. 

Some clinics have therapists see multiple patients simultaneously: one on exercise machines, one with hot packs, and one getting manual therapy. If someone does not keep an appointment, it’s less of a loss. While that style is one way to do business, we’re set up to provide personalized care with a personal approach. And when that person misses an appointment, we all lose.  

ALTA Physical Therapy & Pilates | 303-444-8707 | AltaTherapies.com

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