If one wants to get flexible, yoga and especially Ashtanga yoga is perfect. Also how to get flexible conforms to latest knowledge.
One moves into an asana till the limit is felt. The limit is felt because one feels discomfort till stretching pain. The tolerance of this uneasiness varies from day to day. Then one relaxes, till the discomfort is fading away. It's possible to get deeper into this pose then.
When I was in school we swung to get flexible. This is nonsense. Sometimes I saw yoginis do the same. It's not effective.
I was at the physio therapist due to my back pain. A conversation with another patient started. She sat there with crutches next to her. Her story: She was in the supermarket in the vegetable section during Christmas time. On the floor was a spring onion, that she had overlooked. She slipped on it and landed in a split pose. Her muscles, tendons were torn. Her bones broke. A very complicated surgery followed. Months later she was not yet able to walk alone without crutches. She said she has been very sportive. I thought that this might be, but she forgot to stretch. I'm able to do the split pose, this could have been my rescue.
2. Calming the mind:
When practicing Ashtanga yoga we focus on the sound of the breath. The breath is even and has an even rhythm. This calms the mind.
The eyes are not wandering around, the focus is on a gazing point. When people think rapid eye movement happens. When the eyes are focused on a point the mind becomes calm and calmer. This is relaxing.
3. A guide in life:
Practicing yoga on a daily basis can give orientation in life. We might start reflecting about what we eat and switch to a healthy veg diet. Being attentive on the mat might also lead to a more attentive life off the mat.
I realized that my practise is time-consuming. In order to continue with this practise my life had to become simple.
I started going to bed early, and I take care that I have enough sleep as it makes no sense to step on the mat tired.
This are only a few examples how yoga can influence how we live or lives. Being a yogini is a life style.
1. Ashtanga yoga is not a cardio training:
I'm still in a sort of shock. I measured my heart rate several times with my fitbit tool. The heart rate went up a bit when I practiced the surya namaskaras and at the end when I did urdhva dhanurasana. Yet it was too short to be called a cardio training. It's a better workout to take the steps in the subway than to practise Ashtanga yoga. This is so. There are the vinyasas, but after each vinyasa comes a calm phase in the asanas. This calms the body again.
But I sweat so much?
Yes, but when you have fever you might sweat, too. Some sweat when they are in menopause. Also during nightmares or when we face fears we might start sweating. In summer time even when relaxing in a deck chair we can sweat. This all is no work out.
If one wants to do something for the heart one has to add a work out.
2. Ashtanga yoga is not a strength training.
I got stronger without doubt. But in order to perform some asanas or vinyasas I need much more strength. Laghu vajrasana is such an example. I exercise this asanas for more then 6 years yet I'm not able to come up. The reason: I still have not enough strength in my legs. In order to get stronger I have to do extra strength training.
BTW what I read in blogs and books, those who are able to perform these asanas do these extra strength training. There are a lot of poses that need extra strength: karandavasana, pincha mayurasana are such asanas, only to mention a few. Just to go through the series is not enough!
I personally love to be flexible. I also love the flexibility training.
Adding strength makes a practise safe, it can help to avoid injuries. I discovered a way to get stronger: Calisthenics. (I'll dedicate extra posts to this topic.)
My insights tell me that I have to do a cardio training. By now I try to integrate it into my life: I take the steps i.e. I go out for brisk walks. Perhaps I'll find something that I like, I see the necessity to do something here beside Ashtanga yoga.