We rely on mobility within the body quite literally all of the time. Whether you are doing housework, walking or playing with the dog, working out in the gym, picking up your kiddos, and even when you slip and need to brace yourself as you fall. We need mobility for all of this (and more).
In fact, without having mobility in the body, you'll physically begin to break down. We can see this happen within our daily routines, our workouts and simply as we age. The truth is that no matter your age, mobility is all around us and improving it is one of the most effective ways to improve our overall health, our ability to function, to reduce pain, to prevent injury and to increase your longevity.
What is mobility?
Mobility is a term that is often tossed around and interchanged with things such as flexibility and stability. Simply put, mobility is using strength and control in order to increase the range of motion within the body, specifically in the joints.
Mobility has a strong focus on strengthening the range of motion in the ankles, hips, thoracic spine, shoulders and cervical spine. All of these parts of the body are linked together and maintaining effective mobility in each will help us achieve optimal and functional range of motion throughout the entire body.
Strength and flexibility independently will only get you so far. While these two things are often the only things some will focus on, understanding how to properly activate the body using both strength and flexibility, being able to mobilize independent body parts, and gain control along the way will help you achieve mobility.
Why is mobility important?
So. Many. Reasons. It really is the foundation to physical health and ultimately the key to longevity. Think about how you feel when you've been sitting behind a desk or the computer for way too long. It's usually not good. It might take us longer to stand up and move, and we often feel tight, stiff and sometimes even pain. Imagine the impact on the body by doing this for hours on end, five days a week, week over week. What happens is the muscles and nervous system begin to adapt to this in a way that tells the body that feeling that stiff, having pain, and restrictions is completely normal.
The truth? This is NOT normal and by not ensuring you are actively working on your mobility you are telling your joints and muscles it's ok to go ahead and wear out. When you're not mobilizing your body, not only are you left feeling stiff, pain is triggered, and you're accelerating the aging process, obstructing organs and limiting your ability to take a deep breath.
The bottom line is that mobility matters and there are endless benefits to bringing it into your routine:
Reduced physical injury
Increased body awareness
Improved muscle activation
Released built-up tension
Decreased physical pain and tightness
Better understanding of your own body
What's the difference between mobility and flexibility?
Although the two terms are interchanged synonymously, they are very different. The easiest way to differentiate the two is, flexibility = passive and mobility = active. But what exactly is the difference?
Flexibility is the ability to use an external force to lengthen your muscles. This could be using the assistance of your hand (as pictured here), a strap, the aerial hammock, etc. to go deeper into a stretch.
You are pushing yourself into an extreme range of motion without control. Flexibility doesn't improve your body's function and instead, is a passive way to get into a shape and experience a deep stretch.
Mobility on the other hand is active. It's you moving your body, without assistance, using a combination of strength, control and flexibility.
With mobility you are not only achieving an active range of motion, your body is fully functional and you are actively improving your body's ability to function. You are stimulating every ounce of range of motion that you have and you are engaging to create control.
How does mobility help with injury prevention?
Let's face it, accidents happen to all of us. It's a part of life that at any age, at some point, we all have to deal with an accident that could have drastic impacts on our physical body. However, when you have mobility in the body you are more likely to avoid severe injury when you are faced with accidents.
This is because you have trained your physical body and the nervous system to pay attention. Your body awareness is more acute, your joints are conditioned (and prepared), and the body is able to remain relaxed instead of compensating (which often leads to pain and further injury).
How does the breath help mobility?
The truth is, much like any form of physical movement we do in a yoga practice, mobility is so much more than the physical body. Think about a time when you were stressed and you take a deep breath in and sign out (automatically). This is because your body KNOWS that when you engage the breath, you tap into expanding the diaphragm, and it releases the tense moment you're experiencing. This is our body's GENIUS way of protecting us!
The more relaxation we are able to tap into, the less tension we carry in the body. The less tension we have in the body, the greater ability we have to increase our mobility! The connection with our breath and movement is so critical because oxygen controls our entire existence. Short, shallow breaths activate our sympathetic nervous system which can make us feel anxious. Long, deep breaths activate our parasympathetic nervous system which allows us to relax.
How to add mobility to your routine?
It's simple. Just start moving (and keep moving). No matter where you are in your practice, your age, your fitness level, just get started. And remember that there isn't any reason to compare yourself to others in class or over exert yourself.
If you're feeling motivated to get started and you're not sure where to begin, we offer a 6-Week Aerial Yoga Bootcamp that focuses on mobility. This program is intentionally designed to meet you where you are, give you support and accountability, and help you create consistency in your own personal practice.
You'll meet and train together with a small group once per week, attend weekly accountability sessions, work on mobility drills between your weekly in person sessions, and you'll have support and accountability the entire 6-weeks from your coach and the others in the program. In addition to kick starting your mobility journey, it's designed to take the buddy system to a new level!
Questions? Feel free to reach out!