Our muscles are there to facilitate the movement of our bones and enable us to move from the basics of moving our facial features and turning our heads, to running, jumping and practicing yoga postures. They’re also there to support our bone structure, keep our joints strong and supple and stop our bones from simply sliding out of place. Without our muscles we are quite literally a bag of bones.
There is increasing focus on the flexibility aspect of practicing yoga, with contortion like postures being attempted all the time and people relentlessly practicing and perfecting their back bends or extensive hip openers to get into that elusive hanumanasana (splits) or whatever other posture they want to take achieve (at seemingly, any cost). But we need to remember that our muscles also need time to recover from being stretched in the same way that they need to recover from leg day and vice-versa.
I recently met a yogi who just couldn’t sit still! At literally every opportunity he was stretching some part or other of his body – even after a full primary series practice he would get up from his savasana and continue to stretch.
The very suggestions of taking some time off to allow his muscles to relax and to strengthen received a look of horror, he said he takes a day off every week and it doesn’t really help and when I suggested perhaps a week – it was clearly a no go in his eyes. Unfortunately this person is certainly heading for injury, which will result in 6-8 weeks off followed by around 12 months of recovery; which would you rather!? But I fear that this is the route for many modern yoga students.
The first of the Yamas (moral codes) is Ahimsa: non-harming, not to injure and to have compassion; and this translates to yourself as well as others. You should treat yourself and your body with respect and love and take care of it so that you do not cause harm.
Final point – there is more to Yoga than the Asana. Practice should extend beyond the physical postures, not just to breathing (pranayama) and meditation but to your entire life. The way you think, speak, act; it’s all Yoga!