Five ways to improve your physical and spiritual flexibility

Yoga is jam-packed with double meanings, and that has a lot to do with the fact that it’s both a physical and a spiritual practice.

With that said, flexibility is an attribute you can strive for in both a physical and a spiritual sense. Many students find themselves sitting deeper in their pigeon poses while figuring out what it means to go with the flow — to develop their receptive energy, be open to change, and be ready to be guided by the universe at large.

Flexibility can also have slightly more mundane applications, especially as far as our busy, busy lives go. Too often, we’re over-scheduled, overworked and over-regimented. Flexibility is about working unstructured time into your day again, allowing yourself to be in the moment, and welcoming a certain degree of spontaneity into your life.

In the spirit of flexibility, here are five ways to improve your ability to bend — and not break.

  1. Streamline your calendar.

It’s like Coco Chanel always said: Before you leave the house, remove one agenda item from your calendar.

More than likely, your day is filled with to-dos that are far from imperative. Try scaling your planner down to the bare essentials and see what that does for your frame of mind.

  1. Opt for the modified poses first.

Don’t let the advanced yogis make you nervous when it’s time for triangle pose. If you’re not that flexible yet, it’ll do far more for your range of motion to settle into a modified version of the pose before you attempt something more challenging.

Next time you’re in downward dog, try bending your knees slightly so that you can achieve the optimum amount of extension in your back. Then, as you become more flexible, begin to straighten out your legs.

  1. Say “yes” next time you feel tempted to say “no.”

Part of being flexible is being open. Of course, “no” is an important word, but sometimes saying “yes” can do far more for your personal growth and enjoyment.

  1. Work at least one big block of unstructured time into your week.

Even if you can’t afford an entire day of couch time, you should schedule down time into your week the way you would a lunch date or a trip to do the weekly shopping. That might sound like a contradiction, but you’ll relish the opportunity to act on your whims, even if it’s only for a couple hours.

  1. Stretch!

This may seem like a given, but it’s also one of the most important things you can do in the pursuit of flexibility. You will only become more flexible with practice, and that means holding that difficult pose for a few seconds longer than you want, focusing on your exhalations with a sense of letting go and being at ease.

It also means stretching in the shower, learning to take deep breaths, and doing lots of yoga!.