Did you start off the year with good yoga intentions which are slowly dwindling? Summer is a time of intense heat and humidity especially here in Queensland, which can make it hard for us to keep up with our practice. However the really good thing about practicing asanas in summer is that the heat softens our muscles and helps us ease into stretches with grace. Why not keep up your practice by embracing the heat and enjoy long holds of deliciously stretchy poses with nice slow breathing!
How to stretch
- Don’t go past your limit. When stretching it’s important not to push to try to achieve more stretch and more openness at our joints because then we run the risk of tearing and over stretching our ligaments and tendons.
- Make sure your muscles are warm. Not so much of a problem in summer, but we do need to mobilise our muscles and joints before holding long stretches. A few repetitions of Salute to the Sun will mobilise the joints and get the muscles ready for stretching.
- Move slowly into the stretch and don’t fully extend into the pose until after a few breaths. When we first try to stretch a muscle there is a reflex tightening action. This reflex action releases after a few long breaths and then we can safely move into a deeper stretch.
- Be mindful of discomfort. The middle of the muscle (often called the belly of the muscle) is where we want to stretch, not each end of it where it attaches on to the bones. So if we feel pulling at the ends of the muscle we should draw back.
- Breathe and relax in your stretch. Relaxed muscles stretch much better than tense ones and we can cause tension in our muscles with our attitude. So no negative self talk, no striving and keep your focus on the present.
- Take your time. Often it’s the fascia (tissue surrounding the muscle) which prevents the muscle from stretching any further in which case just come into a comfortable stretch, breathe and wait. It can take at least 2 minutes to influence the fascia to stretch.
- As a foot note it should be said that we also need to balance our stretches with some strengthening poses. While it’s important for the joints to be open and muscles lengthening, we must not neglect our need for the strength and support of our muscles. So always include a pose which will strengthen the area you are stretching.
Here’s to a rewarding summer practice!
By Vrndavan Dasi
Founder and Principal of Veda Yoga Teacher Training