“Mobility requires that you can demonstrate strength throughout the entire range of motion, including the end ranges.” Coach Sommer
Mobility is one of the 5 core Yoga 15 skills. In yoga, we improve mobility by transitioning dynamically through a sequence of postures, synchronising breath and movement. Mobility or flow yoga increases range of motion, reduces stiffness, improves coordination and motor control, alleviates pain and reduces your risk of injury.
WHAT IS MOBILITY?
Mobility refers to the range of motion available at each joint in various planes of movement. The hips, for example, flex, extend, adduct, abduct and internally and externally rotate and for each of these actions, there is a normal range that is measured in degrees. When we have access to full range of motion at each joint, we are able to move with control into all possible positions pain-free.
Mobility is affected by the health and structure of the joint, the flexibility of the surrounding muscles, ligaments and tendons and the functioning of the central nervous system. Healthy range of motion is maintained by consistent movement of the joints through their full range of motion on a regular basis.
YOGA MOBILITY TRAINING
Mobility training involves moving your joints with control through their full range of motion. The goal is to restore healthy range of motion and improve the quality of your movement. As optimal mobility also requires adequate motor control and joint stability, it is essentially stretching and strengthening simultaneously.
There are many different styles of yoga. Some are slow and static and build strength and flexibility and others are more flowy and fast-paced, which is ideal for improving mobility. In flow or vinyasa yoga, we move with stability and control through a sequence of poses that mobilise the joints through their full range of motion.
Classic examples of yoga flows are Sun Salutation A and B. In these sequences, we transition through a set series of postures, synchronising breath and movement. In these flows, we move the shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles through full range of motion in the sagittal plane (flexion and extension).
One aspect of yoga that makes it ideal for mobility training is that we move slowly and mindfully. It is this focus on alignment and control that helps to optimally train the neuromuscular processes as we increase range of motion and bolster the health of the joints.
HOW DO WE LOSE MOBILITY?
We lose mobility through a lack of movement and movement diversity and also through injury and illness. Unfortunately, most of us are not able to move our joints fully through all ranges of motion in the course of our everyday lives. Instead, we typically repeat the same movements and hold the same postures hour after hour and day after day.
Sitting is killer for restricting hip and thoracic spine (mid back) mobility and it’s something most of us can’t avoid. And sports, although extremely healthy in many ways, can also contribute to restrictions in mobility if we aren’t careful to balance them out with other activities. Typically, it is the repetition that causes the problem and not the movement or posture itself.
If you run, cycle, lift weights, box, play hockey, whatever your sport, you consistently repeat the same movements and positions at the expense of certain others. And not only that, running and cycling, the most common of these, do not require you move into your end ranges of motion.
Your body is highly efficient, so if you no longer access a particular range of movement, it is restricted both physiologically at the joint and surrounding musculature and in the somatic nervous system. When you lose mobility, you will find you are unable to move into certain positions that should be available to you and may experience stiffness and even recurring pain.
BENEFITS OF MOBILITY TRAINING
- Joint health. Moving your body through its full range of motion circulates synovial fluid through the joints, keeping them strong and healthy.
- Increasing range of motion. Loosening up joint restrictions allows you to get into the positions that you require to do the activities that you want to do.
- Reducing stiffness. Mobility training alleviates stiffness or tension in the joints that can feel uncomfortable and restrict movement.
- Avoiding injury. When you have good mobility, it is safe for you to move into deeper ranges of motion without hurting yourself.
- Healing pain. Poor hip mobility leads to lower back pain and thoracic spine tightness can cause shoulder and neck pain. Restoring mobility prevents other structures from having to compensate, which can result in injury or pain.
- Improving motor control. Unlike flexibility training which is static, in mobility exercises, we move into and stabilise at the end ranges of motion and this improves motor control.
- Enhancing proprioception. Mobility training improves your proprioception, the awareness of where your body is in space, at the level of the nervous system.
- Improving coordination. Coordination is a neuromuscular process that requires good joint mobility and proprioception. It improves with consistent practice.
- Building strength. Having good mobility allows you to get into the optimal position to achieve correct muscle activation on which to build strength, power and athleticism.
- Preparing the body for exercise. Mobility training is ideal for warming up your body before you exercise to improve your performance and reduce your risk of injury.
MOVING WELL WITH YOGA
Training mobility is about movement and moving well. Having a healthy range of motion in all your joints means that your body is free to move and adjust its position in the most efficient way. This is, of course, crucial in any all sports.
In tennis, winning matches requires the ability to lunge deeply to return the serve, a powerful and accurate golf swing presupposes excellent spinal rotation and sending your bike down a mountain involves high levels of upper-body mobility, body control and proprioception. As high performance comes down to how quickly and accurately you can move your body, good mobility becomes synonymous with skilfulness.
Mobility training can be highly effective as a warm-up. Moving your joints with control though their full range of motion prepares your body and mind for exercise. This improves your performance and decreases your risk of muscle or joint strain. Joint mobility warm-ups boost your circulation, activate key muscle groups, focus the mind and prepare your body to safely move into your end ranges of motion.
YOGA FOR MOBILITY TIPS
- Be mindful and attentive to your movement and alignment to optimise neuroplasticity.
- Try to incorporate movements that are neglected in your everyday sports and activities.
- Move slowly to find angles you might miss at higher speeds.
- Avoid excessive force as the nervous system cannot learn if it feels under threat.
- Be careful not to hold your breath, instead moving with your breath.
- Release any unnecessary tension, especially in the shoulders, neck and jaw.
- Practice diverse movements on a regular basis.
BEST TIME OF DAY TO PRACTICE YOGA FOR MOBILITY
The Mobility videos in the Yoga 15 library can be practiced as warm-ups or as standalone sequences. Unlike, the Flexibility sequences that involve holding static stretches, these videos are safe to practice in the morning and work very effectively as pre-workout sessions.
- Morning—to kickstart the cardiovascular system.
- Pre-workout—to mobilise the joints.
WHO SHOULD DO THE YOGA FOR MOBILITY VIDEOS?
These sequences increase range of motion, reduce stiffness, alleviate pain, improve motor control and reduce your risk of injury so they’re great for all athletes. They’re especially important for athletes who are tight, looking to improve the quality of their movement and increase overall suppleness.