All yoga asanas are a combination of strength, flexibility, mobility, and balance.
We always feel our muscles working hard to support our foundation or hold a certain pose while we’re practicing, but we’re rarely aware of the hard work our ligaments, tendons, and joints do in order to make the posture possible.
Joint mobility is defined as the degree to which an articulation (where two bones meet) is allowed to move before being restricted by surrounding tissues (ligaments, tendons, muscles)—otherwise known as the range of uninhibited movement around a joint.
People often confuse the term with flexibility, when actually, flexibility is just one of the components which, when utilized properly, can dramatically improve one’s mobility. Tight muscles lead to restricted joint movement and put a lot of stress on tendons and ligaments, which are then overused to compensate and stabilize the posture.
Not addressing the issue causes lots of problems down the line, but thankfully, yoga is one of the most effective and non-invasive techniques we can use on a daily basis to enhance our range of motion.
Here are five of the best asanas for actively improving our joint mobility:
1. Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
Trikonasana is an amazing hip opener which at the same time works on stretching the hip flexors and strengthening the our entire spine and legs. Having the legs straight and every muscle active relieves the tension from the knees and ankles and allows the focus to be on the hips and back. Having the constant feeling of “growing” and “lifting” from your sitting bones all the way through your head and neck creates space in between your vertebrae, strengthening all joints equally.
2. Downward-facing Dog
One can never go wrong with this strong foundational pose which makes so many different muscles and joints work together at the same time. Wrists are strengthened by the constant action of “pushing the floor away from you,” shoulders are opened by the conscious act of getting them away from the ears and sliding the shoulder blades down the back, the whole spine is elongated by the hips being diagonally lifted towards the sky, and hamstrings and calves are stretched as the heels reach toward the floor—which at the same time, strengthens the Achilles tendons.
3. Prasarita Padottanasana C
All versions of the Prasarita pose (A, B, C, and D) are equally important for hip and ankle mobility, but the C version includes interlacing the fingers behind the back and using them to bring the body into a deeper forward fold, which creates a deep opening of the shoulders and improves the mobility of the joint.
Traditional yoga practice has many twists which are used to detoxify the body and rejuvenate it with new bursts of energy. These are also an amazing tool for strengthening the joints and muscles by allowing the entrance of fresh oxygen and improving blood flow. Whether you prefer them standing, seated, or lying down, they are a great choice for working on mobility in every part of the body.
Just remember: as much as it is important to enter a twist properly, it’s just as crucial to exit it right. Keep your spine straight the whole time and use your inhales to grow taller and exhales to go deeper into the twist.
5. Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose)
Wheel pose, or any backbend, is one of the best ways to stretch, tone, stabilize, and mobilize the whole posterior part of the body while at the same time stretch the hip flexors. Carefully stacking the joints one on top of the other (wrists under shoulders, ankles under hips) while having the constant action of squeezing the thigh adductors toward each other and contracting the hamstrings, relieves the compression of the lower back and allows for it to stretch, elongate, and stengthen over time.
In all of these poses, being conscious of the breath and using it to go deeper into the stretch will not only result in greater progress over time, but will also teach us how to use a certain asana when a part of our body feels tight or sore.
In this sedentary life we are all living, it’s important that we actively work to improve our mobility before we cause serious damage! Learning how to properly move, strengthen, and stretch our bodies is essential on the path to a healthy and fit life.
Author: Karla Ilicic
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson