Yoga Doesn’t Work (usually) – Secret #4 of 7
For flexibility, your average yoga class usually doesn’t work. To understand why, let me tell you a story…
In a classic murder mystery case, Sherlock Holmes solves the crime by noticing something overlooked by everyone else. The family dog didn’t bark the night of the incident.
There’s only one reason a good guard dog doesn’t bark. He must have known the perpetrator well, which means, it must have been the husband! The dog held the secret to the case but revealed it not by speaking up, but by keeping quiet.
Yoga teachers often do the same thing, and you can learn a ton by listening to what they’re not saying, by reading between the lines.
What I’m talking about here are the unorthodox practices and supplemental exercises yoga teachers do that help them achieve greater benefits and transformation through yoga—and yet for whatever reason, they don’t bark about it.
Didn’t know about this? It happens every day.
I’m talking about the yoga instructor who does a hardcore, two-hour practice each morning, but then teaches only gentle restorative classes to her frustrated students who wonder why they’re not getting the same results.
Then there are teachers who do a 10-minute hip opening sequence before doing their own meditation practices at home; and yet in class, they skip the prep and expect everyone to sit still and clear their minds.
There are dietary choices, extracurricular strength and flexibility training, and all sorts of other weird discoveries that teachers discuss privately but rarely share publically.
These are what I call, “the yoga dogs that don’t bark,” and this is why going to yoga class for flexibility specifically, rarely works. Your average students see marginal gains in their first month or so of yoga practice, and then the results level off—usually for good and long before they’ve even regained natural range of motion.
But is yoga just about flexibility?
Absolutely not, but since you’re reading this, I’m guessing that flexibility (or lack thereof) is a sticking point for you, something you really need to master. For me, when I realized how trapped I was in my body and at such a young age, flexibility became a top priority.
Today, I’m happy to say that figured it out, and “bow-wow,” I’m happy to teach you what I know. Let’s start with how to stretch and practice if flexibility is your specific yoga goal right now.
First, it’s important to understand that most yoga poses demonstrate rather than develop flexibility. That’s why dancers are always the stars of yoga classes while the stiff guys (like me in 2002) hide out in the back and pray for a miracle.
Well stop praying and start timing your long-hold, passive stretch poses.
The miracle of flexibility is in self practice, at home, where you can go deep and work at your own level. If you want to get flexible, you need to learn a different way to stretch. The method I use is called, Gravity Yoga, and involves zero effort, just a ton of concentration and deep breathing.
It’s easier to experience Gravity Yoga than it is to explain, so let’s try one of my favorite poses for tight hamstrings: Rag Doll.
1 – Stand with your feet about as wide as your hips (or even wider)
2 – Bend your knees a little
3 – Clasp your elbows and bend over
4 – Relax your head completely
Ok, now we begin. Your job here is to use as little muscular energy as humanly possible as you stay here in this pose. It’s not a relaxing position to be in, but you need to try to relax as much you can.
Remember to keep your lower back safe by softly bending your knees. Don’t be alarmed if your legs start to tremble, and always return to your breath.
The breath in Gravity Yoga is a little different than in other practices.
Here’s what you do: breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth as deeply and slowly as you can. Count 50 breaths and then release.