When I started with yoga, finding the best yoga for mobility was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to get strong and flexible! As it turns out, mobility encompasses all of that and more.
What Is Mobility?
In human physiology, mobility relates to the range of motion and flexibility of joints, muscles, and connective tissues. It involves coordinating and integrating different body parts to perform movements efficiently and without restrictions. It encompasses strength, balance, and flexibility.
Mobility is crucial in daily activities, sports performance, and overall physical well-being. It allows individuals to engage in tasks like walking, running, bending, reaching, and lifting objects with ease and without discomfort or limitations. Adequate mobility is essential for maintaining proper posture, preventing injuries, and supporting the optimal function of the musculoskeletal system.
What is the Difference Between Mobility and Range of Motion?
While mobility and range of motion are related concepts, they have distinct differences:
- Mobility: Mobility refers to the overall ability to move freely and easily, encompassing not only the range of motion of individual joints but also the coordination, stability, and flexibility of the entire body. It involves the integration of multiple joints, muscles, and body systems to perform functional movements effectively. Mobility includes factors such as balance, agility, and motor control, in addition to the range of motion.
- Range of Motion (ROM): Range of motion focuses explicitly on the extent of movement a joint can achieve. It measures the degrees of movement around a joint, including flexion (bending), extension (straightening), abduction (moving away from the midline), adduction (moving toward the midline), rotation, and other specific movements of each joint. Range of motion assessments helps determine the flexibility, stiffness, or restrictions within a joint.
In essence, mobility encompasses a broader perspective, considering the integrated movement capabilities of the entire body, while the range of motion refers to the specific measurement of movement at individual joints. Both mobility and range of motion are essential for overall physical function, performance, and injury prevention. Improving mobility and maintaining or increasing range of motion are often goals of rehabilitation, athletic training, and general physical fitness programs.
How to Evaluate Your Mobility in Yoga
When evaluating your mobility in yoga, you can focus on specific areas of the body and movements commonly performed in yoga poses. Here are some approaches to assess your mobility in yoga:
- Joint Range of Motion: Assess the range of motion in your major joints, such as the spine, shoulders, hips, and ankles. Pay attention to how far you can comfortably move into flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, rotation, and other specific movements. Observe any restrictions or discomfort you may experience during these movements.
- Yoga Poses: Perform a variety of yoga poses that involve different ranges of motion and body positions. Take note of any limitations or challenges you encounter while attempting the poses. This can help identify specific areas of tightness or restricted mobility in your body.
- Balance and Stability: Evaluate your balance and stability in yoga poses that require single-leg standing or dynamic movements. Assess how steady and controlled you can maintain balance while balancing postures, transitions, or sequences. Observe any difficulties you may face in stabilizing your body or holding certain positions.
- Flexibility: Evaluate your flexibility in areas such as the hamstrings, hips, shoulders, and spine. Perform stretches and poses that target these areas, such as forward folds, hip openers, twists, and backbends. Notice any limitations or differences in flexibility between your body’s left and right sides.
- Proprioception and Body Awareness: Assess your ability to sense and control your body position and movement in different yoga poses. Observe your ability to align your body properly, maintain proper form, and make subtle adjustments to your position based on internal feedback.
- Progression Over Time: Keep track of your progress and improvements in mobility over time. Regularly revisit poses or movements that were challenging initially and observe any changes in your range of motion, balance, or stability.
Remember to approach your mobility evaluation in yoga with patience, mindfulness, and respect for your body’s limitations. It is essential to listen to your body, and avoid pushing beyond your comfortable range of motion.
Is Yoga Effective for Improving Mobility?
As I went online to research this topic, I found some articles that claimed yoga isn’t effective for improving mobility. The point was that yoga is excellent for improving your flexibility but not your mobility. What?
Yoga is highly effective for improving mobility. Yoga incorporates a wide range of poses, stretches, and movements that target different areas of the body, promoting flexibility, strength, and joint mobility. Here are some reasons why yoga is beneficial for improving mobility:
- Stretching and Flexibility: Yoga poses often involve stretching and elongating muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which helps increase flexibility. Regular yoga practice can gradually improve the range of motion in various joints, allowing for increased mobility.
- Joint Health: Many yoga poses involve gentle movements that help lubricate the joints, maintain their health, and prevent stiffness. By moving the joints through their full range of motion in a controlled manner, yoga can enhance joint mobility and reduce the risk of joint-related issues.
- Muscle Strength and Balance: Yoga poses require muscle engagement and balance, which leads to increased strength and stability. Strengthening the muscles around the joints provides better support and control, improving overall mobility.
- Mind-Body Connection: Yoga emphasizes mindful movement, focusing on breath awareness and body sensations. This mind-body connection can enhance proprioception, awareness of body position and movement, and improve coordination and mobility.
- Spinal Mobility: Yoga incorporates various spinal movements, including flexion, extension, rotation, and lateral flexion. These movements help maintain the health and flexibility of the spine, enhancing overall mobility and relieving tension in the back.
- Posture Improvement: Poor posture can restrict mobility and lead to musculoskeletal imbalances. Yoga promotes proper alignment and posture, alleviating joint and muscle strain and allowing for freer and more fluid movement.
Best Yoga for Mobility
Remember, mobility involves a combination of strength, flexibility, and balance. All types of yoga are helpful to improve your strength, flexibility, and balance. However, I will share some yoga styles that deserve an honorable mention:
- Hatha Yoga: Hatha yoga is a gentle and foundational style that incorporates a variety of poses to promote flexibility, strength, and balance. It focuses on holding poses and exploring a wide range of movements, making it suitable for all levels of practitioners.
- Vinyasa Yoga: Vinyasa yoga involves linking breath with movement in a dynamic and flowing sequence. Instead of focusing on one pose at a time, it strings various poses together to create a flow. This style encourages continuous and fluid movement, which can help improve mobility, flexibility, and coordination. Vinyasa flows also include poses that stretch and strengthen multiple muscle groups.
- Yin Yoga: Yin yoga targets the deep connective tissues, such as ligaments, fascia, and joints. It involves holding poses for an extended period, typically one to five minutes. Yin yoga helps increase joint mobility and flexibility by gently stressing and lengthening the connective tissues. Yin yoga is my personal favorite for training for increased flexibility. My Full-Body Transformation Program and most of my free flexibility routines are based on Yin Yoga.
- Iyengar Yoga: Iyengar yoga emphasizes precise alignment and props to support proper posture and form. This style incorporates many poses and focuses on holding them for longer durations. Iyengar yoga helps improve mobility by gradually working through different poses and finding optimal alignment.
- Power Yoga: Power yoga is a dynamic and vigorous form of yoga that combines traditional poses with a faster-paced flow and strength-building exercises. It builds stamina, flexibility, and physical strength while incorporating mindful breathing and meditation techniques.
When practicing yoga for mobility, listening to your body, working within your comfort zone, and avoiding pushing too far beyond your limits is essential. The key is to find the edge of your abilities, where you push yourself hard enough to feel challenged but not too hard to feel discouraged or injure yourself. Furthermore, you will likely find that the best yoga for mobility combines all the above and maybe even more.
It’s important to note that consistency and regular practice are key to seeing improvements in mobility through yoga. Gradually progress in your practice, listen to your body, and work within your comfort and ability. If you struggle with consistency in your yoga practice, my 5-Day Yoga Habit Challenge will help. I created the challenge for women who feel stiff and out of shape and would like some help to create a consistent yoga practice.
Yoga for Flexibility and Strength for Beginners
Most beginners looking for the best yoga for mobility will find that flexibility is why they struggle with a lack of mobility at first. That’s why I recommend beginners start with more extended flexibility holds as you would perform in Yin Yoga. Then, work on including more strength exercises as well.
Yoga Poses for Flexibility for Beginners
For beginners looking to improve flexibility through yoga, here are some accessible yoga poses that target different areas of the body:
- Child’s Pose (Balasana): A gentle resting pose that stretches the back, hips, and thighs. Kneel on the floor, sit back on your heels, and extend your arms forward while resting your forehead on the mat or a block.
- Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): This pose stretches the entire body, including the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and spine. Start on your hands and knees, then lift your hips up and back, forming an inverted V shape with your body.
- Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana): This dynamic movement helps mobilize the spine and stretches the back and torso. Start on your hands and knees, and on an inhale, arch your back and lift your chest (Cow Pose), then exhale and round your spine, tucking your chin (Cat Pose). Repeat the movement smoothly and slowly.
- Forward Fold (Uttanasana): A standing pose that stretches the hamstrings, calves, and back. Stand with feet hip-width apart, fold forward from the hips, and let your upper body relax. Bend your knees if necessary to support your flexibility.
- Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana): This gentle backbend stretches the spine and chest. Lie on your stomach with palms placed beside your shoulders. Press into your hands, lift your chest off the ground, and keep your legs and pelvis relaxed.
- Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana): A seated pose that opens the hips and stretches the inner thighs. Sit on the floor, bend your knees, and bring the soles of your feet together. Hold onto your feet or ankles, and gently press your knees towards the floor.
Remember to focus on your breath, take it slowly, and listen to your body. It’s essential to practice with awareness and avoid pushing beyond your limits. You can explore additional poses and gradually deepen your stretches with consistent practice as you progress. You may also enjoy How to Get Flexible With Yoga With Follow-Along Video).
Plus, if you want a step-by-step protocol to get you from stiff to bendy, my Full-Body Flexibility Transformation is perfect!
Yoga Poses for Strength (Beginners and Advanced)
Yoga poses can effectively build strength in various areas of the body. Here are some yoga poses that focus on developing strength:
- Plank Pose (Phalakasana): This pose targets the core, shoulders, arms, and legs. Begin in a push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders, engage your core, and hold your body straight from head to heels. I love the plank pose, and all its modifications to increase core strength (try my Best Core and Upper Body Routine).
- Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II): This pose strengthens the legs, core, and arms. Stand with your feet wide apart, extend your arms out to the sides, and bend your front knee while keeping your back leg straight. Sink into the pose and engage your muscles.
- Boat Pose (Navasana): Boat pose engages the core muscles, including the abs and hip flexors. Sit on the floor with your knees bent, lean back slightly, lift your feet off the ground, and extend your legs forward. Balance on your sit bones and reach your arms forward ((try my Crazy Effective Hip Flexor Strengthening Exercises),
- Chair Pose (Utkatasana): Chair pose strengthens the legs, glutes, and core. Stand with your feet together, bend your knees, and lower your hips as if sitting back into an imaginary chair. Extend your arms overhead or keep them in prayer position.
- Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana): Dolphin pose builds strength in the shoulders, arms, and core. Begin on your hands and knees, lower your forearms to the ground, and lift your hips up, creating an inverted “V” shape with your body.
- Crow Pose (Bakasana): Crow pose develops upper body and core strength. Squat down, place your hands shoulder-width apart on the ground, lean forward, and lift your feet off the ground, balancing your knees on the back of your upper arms.
- Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana): One of my favorites because it energizes me! Lie on your back, bend your knees, place your hands beside your shoulders, and lifts your entire body off the ground, creating an arched shape resembling a wheel. It helps to strengthen the arms, legs, and back while opening the chest and stretching the hip flexors and shoulders (check out How to Get Better at Backbends With Full Yoga Routine to learn more).
Remember to practice these poses with proper alignment, focus on engaging the muscles, and breathe steadily. As with any physical activity, it’s important to listen to your body, work within your limits, and seek guidance from a qualified yoga instructor if needed. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of these poses as your strength improves.
Yoga Stretches for Flexibility Advanced
Yoga for flexibility and mobility tends to evolve as you advance in your practice.
For advanced practitioners looking to deepen their flexibility through yoga, here are some challenging yoga stretches that target different areas of the body:
- King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana): A deep hip opener that stretches the hip flexors, quadriceps, and chest. From a high lunge position, slide your front shin forward and lower your back leg, keeping your hips square. Extend your arms overhead and reach back to grasp your back foot, if accessible.
- Standing Split (Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana): This pose stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors while improving balance. Start in a standing forward fold, then shift your weight onto one leg and extend the other leg straight up towards the ceiling.
- Monkey Pose (Hanumanasana): A challenging split pose that deeply stretches the hamstrings, hip flexors, and groin. From a low lunge, slowly slide your front foot forward and straighten both legs as much as possible, keeping the hips squared and supported by blocks or props as needed.
- Wheel Pose (Chakrasana): A deep backbend that stretches the entire front body, including the chest, shoulders, hip flexors, and quadriceps. Lie on your back, bend your knees, place your hands beside your ears with fingers pointing towards your shoulders, and press into your hands and feet to lift your hips and chest off the ground.
- Compass Pose (Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana): This pose combines deep hip and hamstring stretching with a twist. From a seated position, extend one leg straight out and bring the other leg into a half lotus position. Twist your upper body towards the straight leg, then fold forward and reach your opposite hand to the outside of the foot.
- Standing Backbend (Anuvittasana): A standing variation of the backbend that stretches the entire front body and opens the chest. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, place your hands on your lower back, and gently arch backward while lifting your chest and looking upwards.
Always approach advanced poses cautiously and ensure you have built a strong foundation of flexibility, strength, and body awareness through consistent practice.
Best Yoga for Mobility: Follow-Along Video Routine
Since improving your mobility involves increasing your flexibility, strength, and balance to improve a greater range of motion, yoga is one of the best activities to get you there. As far as finding the best yoga for mobility routines that will enable your to reach your goals, you will find that the key is to keep finding the edge of your abilities, particularly when it comes to your strength and flexibility routines.