I used to only focus on muscles and strength, but as I get older I am finding that being strong and improving flexible in tendons and ligaments has become more important to me.
One way I am working on improving my tendons and ligaments with through yoga. I am very much a beginner and am still have so much to learn. Perhaps you’ve been in a yoga practice for a long time. If so, please let me know what works best for you.
I used to really enjoy the constant moving workout type of yoga that burns a lot of calories and works the muscles, but as I have gotten older, I’m finding that flexibility and releasing tension to be more of my goal with my yoga practice.
Only recently I have discovered yin yoga.
Yin yoga is a slow hold yoga that allows the connective tissues, ligaments and tendons to slowly release. It helps with stiffness. As we age, our bodies get stiffer and less supple. I guess that is obvious. If you think of a little baby and how flexible they are, with joints, muscles and even skin, that’s the other extreme.
Yin yoga helps to release tension in the body that comes from bracing and clenching. Dealing with difficult people, situations and problems will cause the body to stiffen and hold tension. It holds tension not just in the muscles, but also in the ligaments, tendons and joints that get very stiff.
I know that the hours of sitting still in front of the computer, working my “day job”, have made my neck, shoulders and parts of my spine become tight. Too often I end up hunched over the computer all day. It’s a bad position for the body! Of course the hip flexor tendon, the ones that connect my front thighs to my abdomen, get shortened and the rear tendons tend to get stretched. (I believe its the part that attaches the psoas and iliacus muscles to the upper thigh and the lower spine and pelvis.)
Whatever you call it, I know I can feel it! It’s especially noticeable when I stand up from sitting too long – either a 2-hour car ride or a 2-hour intense computer session! I feel the stiffness that has tightened in my body. Even when getting out of bed in the morning, I definitely move slower in order to let my whole body wake up.
Doing repetitive motion workouts like cycling and running also effects my body. I want to make sure that my ligaments and tendons don’t get over worked, stretched or too weak from not working out.
Yin yoga has helped. I enjoy holding the poses while I feel the benefits. This type of yoga has improved my posture, flexibility and strength. Although I have not measured myself lately, I feel like I have grown half an inch with a longer spine.
I do it slowly and progressively over the days, weeks, and months. It’s not the type of thing you force your way into, but rather relax your way into it. It’s not about stretching but rather about relaxing… if that makes sense.
Improving Flexibility in Tendons and Ligaments
It takes a while to warm up and get comfortable in these positions. I recommend taking a class with a certified yoga instructor or view a trusted site for a yoga class.
You’ve got to make sure your body is warmed up before going into these poses. I’ve been focusing on one or two classes a week at my gym and supplementing with online videos. The classes at the gym have been gentle Hatha yoga and restorative yoga. Both those classes employ yin yoga moves that I am finding very beneficial to adding to my work outs of cycling and run/walking.
Yin Yoga is not about doing the flowing type of yoga that people often think about. It is more about getting into a position and holding it for tension release. Holding for 45 seconds or two minutes allows other parts of your body to release. It’s difficult to relax enough to get your tendons and ligaments to let go. In some positions, being supported with a block, bolster or foam roller allows me to more easily relax for up to 5 minutes in a pose.
Here are 3 positions I find particularly beneficial to me for improving flexibility with tendons and ligaments.
- Butterfly pose where you sit on your yoga mat with the bottoms of the feet touching each other. Right now I’m working on zippering my toes together. It’s difficult for me and I seem to only get a couple toes to cooperate. I’m in the very beginning stage of this! The tendons and ligaments in my toes are very tight.
- Cobra pose with your feet, legs and hips on the matte with the arms supporting your front. Keep elbows bent and support the spine. It is difficult to relax my tendons that attach the hips to the abdomen but I can feel lengthening the front. This is a back bend pose. I am still working on sphinx and baby cobra but eventually will work on cobra and eventually upward facing dog where the legs, knees are off the matte and the elbows are straight.
- Bridge pose where you lay on your back with your knees bent. Raise your hips. This pose off sets some of my sitting. This seems easy for the first 30 seconds but if I am holding longer, I like to use a prop to allow my body to relax to get the full benefit. It feels like the opposite of the spinx, baby cobra and cobra up dog poses.
Perhaps you know all about yin yoga, but maybe this is the first time you’ve heard of it. If you enjoy yoga, what type do you use? Are you working on flexibility and balance? Which are your favorite yin yoga poses for keeping your tendons and ligaments flexible and strong?