Mobility is essential. Not just the external ability to able to move from place to place, but the internal mobility of our joints, that allows that to happen.
I came across an interesting post about mobility on No Meat Athlete (a great resource for plant-based diet and fitness). The author, Luke Jones, defines mobility as, “usable flexibility” basically, the amount of strength and control you have when you are moving your body.
The good news is that yoga is an incredible tool to develop “usable flexibility.” As we practice a range of static and moving poses we gradually expand the limits of our flexibility, that is to say, our body’s range of motion, and increase the strength of our muscles and connective tissue to make those movements powerful and confident.
How does that benefit us outside the studio?
According to Jones, there are three major benefits of mobility:
1. Enhanced Performance
Whether you’re a casual runner, an avid gym goer, or a competitive athlete — making mobility a priority could give you a BIG performance boost in your chosen sport.
- Mobile ankles can improve your ability to perform a back squat with good form, making it safer and easier for you to lift a heavier weight.
- Hips that move well can mean a longer stride length and improved gait patterns, making you a more efficient runner (meaning less effort to run the same pace/distance).
In short, if you’re looking to add a few pounds onto your squat PR, improve your 5K time, or take the number one spot in the family athletics pecking order, getting mobile could really help you out.
2. Reduced Injury Risk
We can all agree that injuries suck, so anything we can do to reduce our chances of getting hurt and sidelined from our favorite activity is worth looking at.
Studies have shown that athletes who undertake a corrective movement and mobility program for as little as four weeks can make significant improvements in their positioning and joint function — enough to eliminate muscular imbalances and reduce their injury risk.
Even though we’re not quite sure how that works, one proposed idea is that, as well as helping us adopt safer, more stable positions when we exercise, developing mobility gives us more strength and control through a wider range of motion. Essentially, this could provide us with a little more room for error when it comes to falling out of alignment.
3. Less Pain, More Freedom of Movement
Last and certainly not least, mobility can often mean less pain and more options for movement.
Pain tends to get a bad rap, but it’s often just a handy signal from your body to highlight that something isn’t quite right.
Where does mobility come in?
There are a bunch of nerve receptors concentrated around your joints, designed to detect changes in positioning — so if something isn’t aligned or moving as well as it could be, your body will most likely let you know.
That could be in the form of a nagging lower back pain or achy knees. Not fun.
The good part is that when we restore our normal range of motion with mobility work, that pain signal no longer has to be on red alert. Sure, there are plenty of other factors that can contribute to pain, and restoring mobility isn’t always the only ingredient — but it’s a great start!
Practice mobility mindfulness in your next yoga sessions. Observe how your body is becoming more flexible, strong and capable of movement.
How has yoga improved your movement? Share in the comments!