After two years of taking Gina Dunn’s yoga class at WeYogis and studying under her while I did my certification, I’ve picked up on why and how she sequences her 75 minute vinyasa class. All of her classes blend an energetic vinyasa flow that is strategically designed to build strength, increase stamina, and deepen flexibility. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons I hear people say why they don’t do yoga is “because I’m not flexible enough”.
Here are Gina’s thoughts on the importance of flexibility and how it translates to yoga:
When people tell me they don’t come to yoga because they aren’t flexible, I always laugh a little and say that’s like telling me you can’t come to dinner because you’re too hungry.
Yoga promotes flexibility. Look at any person who has done yoga for an extended period of time and you will notice not just their posture, but the way they carry themselves. They are lithe and strong, and tend to move with ease and youthful grace.
One of the true goals of practicing yoga is to break free from bodily imprisonment. We are, often subconsciously, constantly seeking to satisfy our physical desires, or to somehow prevent pain or suffering. One manifestation of this is a tense “inflexible” body. The tighter we are, the less able we are to move freely, and the more we are likely to suffer from aches and pains or, eventually, complete immobility. Truly, a flexible spine is a healthy spine.
With a strong and limber body, we (somewhat ironically) free ourselves from our physicality and can move onto more important concerns, namely, concerns of the spirit/mind. The physical poses, then, serve as a gateway to what the yogis call “pratyahara” which means sense-withdrawal and increased concentration that can help you focus or develop a practice of meditation.
To put this more simply, it’s really hard to meditate and be calm in the mind when your neck or back aches like all hell.
So, to someone who asks “Why do I need to be flexible?”, I would say something like:
“You need to develop your flexibility because:
1. a tight body will cause you all kinds of physical discomfort and suffering, both short- and long-term, and
2. because having flexibility and openness in your body is part of the larger process of breaking yourself from a dependence upon or identification with the body.”
If none of this works, some yogis respond when I tell them that they need flexible, open hips so that they can one day master, say, yogi dandasana, or yogi staff pose (pictured below). Personally, I don’t think that this is a truly substantial reason for trying to get your hips open, but oftentimes our reasons for doing something can change over time, even if our initial reasons were somewhat naive or misguided.
So, even if we now pursue more flexibility just to “get the pose right” as we practice yoga in a classroom setting, we may later come to realize that this was not so important after all, but nonetheless, that it was important for us to go through this process anyway. Yoga is a process-oriented approach to discovering a more flexible you. -GMD
Gina Marie Dunn is an Artist, Yogi, and a teacher of both. By living creatively, she hopes to share the happiness that comes from existing “outside the lines” with both her family and her students. In turn, the students remind her to take risks, create from a place of freedom, and most of all enjoy the process and beauty of this journey.
Follow her painting at www.ginamariedunn.com and her yogi adventures/teaching schedule at www.asanadealers.com. She teaches at various studios in Dallas, and you can find me in her classes at WeYogis, where I practice regularly.
Thank you lovely Gina, for taking the time to express your thoughts on flexibility with us.
See you on the mat.