The Unimportance of Flexibility in Yoga

Extract One from The New Yoga: From Cult and Dogma to Science and Sanity

The focus on flexibility above everything else – too common in yoga – means people are injuring themselves dumping into their joints and ligaments at their end range of movement. Many older yoga teachers, and some not so old, have now had hip replacements because they acknowledge they pushed the limits of their flexibility too hard. One of those was forty-five-year-old Tune Up Fitness Worldwide icon Jill Miller, whose hip replacement may have been exacerbated by an over-ambitious thirty-year yoga practice, she told The Yoga Journal.
There are many lessons for The New Yoga teacher and practitioner in Hargrove’s A Guide to Better Movement. The first thing that jumped out of the pages, was the relative unimportance of flexibility, which, as we know is, for many, the reason to begin, or avoid modern postural yoga. When your whole yoga world was built around the idea that yoga was primarily a tool for increasing flexibility and someone upends that assumption, it’s a shock. “You mean, all those hyper-mobile twenty-something women on Instagram are leading us in the wrong direction?” we might ask. Well, yes, implies Hargrove.

If you took a group of top athletes and measured their physical qualities, they may have exceptional strength, power, endurance or balance, but their flexibility would probably be pretty average for a healthy person, Hargrove says. If that was not bad enough, “flexibility does not appear to protect against injury,” he says. “For example, in hockey players, strong adductors are far more protective against groin strain than flexible adductors”. Moreover, “increased flexibility can increase the risk of injury by destabilizing a joint.”
Large range of movement is only valued in activities where there is an aesthetic element, such as dance and gymnastics. “But you won’t see the splits very often in sports where there are no points awarded for style. What you will see is complete mastery over normal ranges of motion [my italics]”.
Watch out for Extract Two coming soon here!

The New Yoga: From Cult and Dogma to Science and Sanity By AYC Director Rob Walker is available from Amazon and at The AYC itself.