Do you ever wonder what happens to your body after you start practicing yoga? For me, personally, I was drawn to yoga because I was looking for some relief from achy muscles, improving my flexibility, and increasing my lung capacity. When I first started yoga, I was also running long distances and my body needed more recovery than just doing a couple stretches.
I started attending classes at my neighborhood yoga studio. Every week, I would attend these hot yoga classes (that's what I wanted at the time) and I felt my muscles from my head to my feet start to relax and open. I was working a day job and sitting at a computer for nine hours each day, which did a number on my neck, shoulders, hips and legs. I realized later — after I became a yoga instructor — that the opening and relaxation of my muscles was my body creating space for deeper flexibility. I actually posted a short video on some basic poses you can use to create flexibility in these areas in My Yoga Journey.
Anyway, as time went on, I noticed I could touch my toes in a seated forward fold, my heels sunk a little closer to the ground in downward facing dog, and I could open my hips a little further in butterfly. So, you’re probably wondering, how does this work? The simple answer is that it takes time, patience and practice to loosen your muscles and deepen your flexibility in yoga positions. Doing these poses almost daily helped open my hips and hamstrings. The nerdy anatomy answer: my fascia was and still is remodeling itself.
What does this mean exactly? Once I started practicing Yin yoga, I actually understood the answer to this question. When you hold folds and hip openers a little longer (about 3-5 minutes), your fascia (a.k.a the tissue that attaches, stabilizes and surrounds the muscle) starts to reshape itself. It leaves you with the feeling that your muscles are longer. Fascia is like a plasticy material in your body that takes its good ol’ time to lengthen and reshape depending on the yoga pose. Remember how I mentioned touching my toes in my seated forward fold? The fascia in my hamstrings started to remold itself, allowing me to fold further into a deeper stretch. Its also responsible for bringing my heels closer to the ground in downward dog.
At the end of the day, yoga has helped me open my hips and hamstrings, which has taught me more about my body than I ever knew before. Developing my flexibility has allowed my recovery after half marathons to lessen solely from the little bit of practice I do each day. These spaces and openings I have created is what happened to my body when I started doing yoga. So, what do you feel in your body when you do yoga?
About the Author
Laura Bender has been practicing yoga since 2014. Her own practice has helped her grow stronger and more flexible, while teaching her the lessons of mindfulness and gratitude. As a yoga instructor, her students inspire her to shine from the heart and be open to her most authentic self. You can learn more about Laura on her website, LB Yogi, and Facebook page.