As you may have seen on my social media, I decided to challenge myself to doing yoga for one month. Why did I do this? I noticed while I was working out and I was having aches and pains, and I knew that these stemmed from muscular imbalances. Honestly I am not the best practicing what I preach… I know I teach all of my clients about how important it is to incorporate stretching into your regular routine, however I do not do this consistently for myself. And over time, this causes muscles to get tight, and joints to be pulled on in ways they were not meant to be, which causes pain or discomfort.
For me, my hip flexors are extremely tight. This is common for people who spend a lot of time sitting, but also for people who exercise their legs and do not stretch enough. The hip flexors run down the front of your pelvis, and they attached to your lower spine. When they get tight, this can cause your pelvis to sit in an anterior rotation, that is pointing downward if you’re standing up. It can also cause back pain, because that tightness will pull in the lower spine. I also knew that this tightness was causing some of my other muscles to be weak. When your joints do not sit as they are meant to, it can be harder for other muscles to turn on as often as you need them. If your pelvis is sitting in this anterior rotation, your abdominal muscles may not turn on as often as they should. This can cause core weakness. I learned from another physical therapist that I was not recruiting my hip abductors, which are important muscles for balance.
My goal for doing yoga consistently, was to increase the flexibility of my hips, as well as improve my balance. I stuck to my routine of doing yoga at least three times per week for four weeks. I will say that the results were different than my expectations.
Because I have been stretching such tight hip flexors, which again attached to the lower spine, I have had a lot more tightness and discomfort in my lower back then ever before. I know this is a good pain, and that I am not overdoing it. It is very important to listen to your body, and do not push yourself into pain. But also understand that changing is not always comfortable. I know that I need to stick with this yoga practice to continue stretching those hips, as well as strengthen the back muscles to hold the spine in place. Four weeks was just the start. I cannot confidently say that my balance is improving yet, which does surprise me.
I also have had more benefits that I did not expect, such as improved mental focus. When I work out, I like to let my mind also work out things that maybe weighing on me. I always felt like this was relaxing because after the workout, I had a better idea about how to prioritize my "to do" list. During yoga, it is important to focus on your breathing and the posture in order to balance. If the mind wanders, so does the body. This provides a rest to the mind that I have not experienced before. I also have had more energy! I do not know if this has more to do with that mental rest, but I like it :)
It has been a fun challenge, and I have learned more about my body. I know that this is only the beginning, and I have to stick with it to continue improving the imbalances in my muscles. The good news is I have returned
to my workouts and not have any of the aches or pains that brought the challenge on. That is certainly a win!