To the students hanging out in Forward Facing Bend during a yoga class I taught at Life’s Journey Yoga & Wellness Center, I read some of Lucas Rockwood’s thoughts from his YOGABODY Handbook:
“We’ve all done this posture a million times,” I read, “but most people never practice it properly, in a way that increases stretching and flexibility.
Remember this: the hamstrings include three massive muscles plus dozens of other connective tissues.
Bobbing up and down isn’t going to do squat for your flexibility.You’ve got to relax, breathe deeply, bend your knees a little and stay here for as long as you can.”
At the time of my pause from reading this passage, a “hmmh” — as if saying, “Oh, that makes sense!” — resounded from one of the students dangling in Uttanasana (Forward Facing Bend).
The Focus of The YOGABODY Handbook
Rockwood’s YOGABODY Handbook covers an interesting and succinctly-explained 5-day journey through stretching for “maximum flexibility in just 15 minutes per day.”
Because Rockwood believes that fewer postures held longer reap us the greatest flexibility results, his book is not overwhelming at all.
It’s so incredibly easy to follow with the simplest of step-by-step instructions and solid pictures of the postures being explored during the 5-day period.
The flexibility journey takes readers into the hamstrings on day 1, hips on day 2, shoulders on day 3, back on day 4, and wrists, twists, and ankles on day 5.
When exploring the back on day 4, Rockwood answers the question: “Why are backbends so hard?”
Then, he answers: “In order to bend backwards, we need to open up the front of our body. This includes the muscles of the abdomen, the intercostals, the shoulders, and the tops of the legs. When compared with seated forward bends that do a great job of isolating the hamstring muscles; backbends are very gross stretches that involve a whole series of major muscle groups.”
“Together,” he continues, “all these tissues can really put up a fight against any sort of backward-bending movements you might be attempting.
So, what do you do?
You hold the poses longer, practice VERY carefully, breathe deeply — and give it some time!
Progress in backbends seems slower” (and he emphasizes “seems”), “but because you’re stretching so many different areas at once, every small gain is actually a huge gain in mobility for the entire front of your body.”
One of the three postures Rockwood shows via a graphic and writes about for Day 4 is Noodle pose.
I paused at this stage of writing this article to position my body in Noodle, because it’s such an ideal way of opening up parts of the body getting stiff during computer work. As I just shifted back and across my dining room chair in Noodle pose, I squealed with delight: “Oh this feels so good.”
Later, I returned to Noodle to hang out for the 4 – 5 minutes Rockwood suggests holding it, but simply holding it for the brief time that I initially did provided me with a refreshed feeling.
“It’s an excellent way to lengthen the tops of the legs, the intercostals (muscles between each rib), the abdomen, the shoulders, and the upper back,” says Rockwood.
“The best part is, you can do this pose anywhere, at any time — just don’t do it right after eating!”
Flexibility from More Than Yoga
Talking about eating, because Rockwood is not only a yoga teacher but also a nutrition coach with an emphasis on raw-vegan eating, his YOGABODY Handbook also includes information about food and nutrition for increasing flexibility.
He credits “spirulina, chlorella, the juice extract of barley grass and wheatgrass, green juices, raw greens, and all seaweeds” as foods that will not only increase health but improve flexibility, too.
In his “Flexibility Superfoods” section, under “Why Greens Make You Flexible,” Rockwood writes:
“….Green is the color of chlorophyll and chlorophyll is the blood of plants that some believe helps the body absorb oxygen. The theory goes like this: More Greens = More Oxygen = More Energy, Strength & Flexibility.”
Rockwood also mentions that “Greens contain easily absorbed amino acids (proteins) which may also contribute to their ‘bendy body’ effects on people.”
Whether yoga is your thing or not, the content in YOGABODY Handbook is beneficial to all. I feel blessed to have a copy in my home (and yoga bag).
To get one in yours, visit YogaBody Naturals.