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If you ask people why they exercise, most will say to stay healthy, keep fit, or because it makes them feel good. Not a lot will mention flexibility as a goal, but it’s a key part of maintaining your health and avoiding injury, especially as you age.
The stretching you do in yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility. It’s a commonly held misconception that you have to already be flexible to do yoga. In fact, the opposite is true: doing yoga regularly is a sure way to become more flexible.
The poses below target the three major muscles groups where most people are lacking flexibility: hamstrings, hips, and shoulders. These three areas tend to get even more tight from sitting for long periods or even from other types of exercise, like running.
Don’t be in a rush to get through these poses. Many times you can feel several different phases of opening as you stay in a pose for longer. Don’t expect overnight changes, however. For best results, do your stretches daily. The following poses are intended to give you some options to fit your current level of flexibility.
The muscles running along the backs of your thighs are the hamstrings. Most people are pretty tight in this area, but it’s an important place to stretch because tight hamstrings can cause back pain among other types of discomfort. Forward bends are a great way to loosen this area.
Hip flexibility is complicated because there are so many muscles packed into this small area. Poses that stretch the hip flexors, including the psoas, iliacus, and parts of the quadriceps and glutes, are a good way to accomplish greater freedom of movement in the hips.
Like the hamstrings and hips, shoulders are another area that gets tight from too much riding in cars and sitting at desks. If possible, take stretch breaks at work to avoid serious repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.
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