Flexibility or Strength – Which is more important?

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By Paula Mitten, owner of Durga Yoga Ireland

Yoga is a holistic practice that offers numerous physical and mental benefits. It involves a combination of stretching, strengthening, and breathing exercises that help improve flexibility, balance, and overall fitness. However, it's important to understand that flexibility alone isn't enough to maintain a healthy body.

In the yoga world, flexibility is often glorified, and many people strive to achieve advanced poses that require a high level of flexibility. While being flexible is important, it's equally important to balance flexibility with strength. Flexibility without strength can lead to instability in the joints, increased risk of injury, and difficulty in maintaining proper alignment in yoga poses.

What about strength training?

Strength training is crucial for a well-rounded yoga practice. It helps build stability and support in the body, which can prevent injury and improve overall body control. In addition, strength training can help improve posture, increase bone density, and boost metabolism.

Won't I bulk up if I focus on strength training?

It's important to remember that strength training doesn't mean bulking up or developing large muscles. Instead, it means building functional strength that supports everyday movements and activities. Yoga poses like plank, chaturanga, are great for building strength in the upper body and core, while poses like chair pose, warrior poses and standing balances can help strengthen the legs.

Better body awareness and control

By incorporating strength training into your yoga practice, you can develop better body awareness and control. You'll be able to maintain proper alignment in yoga poses, which can help prevent injury and improve your overall practice. In addition, building strength can help improve your flexibility, as your muscles will be better able to support and control your range of motion.

So how can you balance flexibility with strength in your yoga practice? One way is to incorporate both stretching and strength exercises into your routine. Begin with a warm-up that includes dynamic stretching to prepare your body for movement. Then, move into strength-building exercises actively engaging the muscles and working on upward energy in your poses. Wait until the end of your yoga practice to work on deeper stretches like pigeon pose or seated forward fold to maintain and improve flexibility.

It's also important to listen to your body (AKA be mindful, and aware of sensation in your body) and not push beyond your limits. While it's great to challenge yourself and work towards more advanced poses, it's important to do so safely and mindfully. Don't sacrifice proper form and alignment for the sake of achieving a certain pose. Remember, yoga is a journey, and the focus should be on the process, not the end result.

In conclusion, balancing flexibility with strength is essential for a healthy and sustainable yoga practice. By incorporating strength-building exercises into your routine, you can improve stability, prevent injury, and enhance your overall yoga experience. Remember, it's not just about achieving impressive poses – it's about cultivating a strong and balanced body and mind.

Try a yoga class with Paula on her YouTube Channel

About Paula:

Paula Mitten is an internationally recognised yoga teacher and yoga teacher trainer. She’s the creator of Durga Yoga Online and Yoga Teachers Masterclass. Paula is a teacher of teachers, teaching yoga for 18 years and facilitating teacher training since 2011.

Paula's passion is encouraging self exploration and inner belief in her students and is committed to building a yoga community of support, connection and generosity.

When she's not teaching yoga you will find Paula dancing in her kitchen to 90's old school music, or at the stables with the horses. In the stillness of the morning, before the rest of the world wakes, Paula enjoys sitting leisurely over a pot of fresh organic coffee and taking some quiet time to think.

Paula’s spiritual journey is never finished, and she considers herself a dedicated student for life.