One of the most important aspects of wellness is one that doesn’t get brought up that much: mobility. Contrary to popular belief, there is a difference between mobility and flexibility. Flexibility is the ability of your muscles to move (stretch) through a full range of motion. Mobility, on the other hand, is an umbrella term for everything–joints, muscles, motor control–to move through a full range of motion under control.
The two things absolutely interconnect. (It’s difficult to perform a movement well if your muscles don’t stretch enough.) However, many people ignore the less sexy aspects of mobility in favor of concerning themselves fully with flexibility. Yogis, I’m afraid, can be part of this problem.
Stretching after you work out and/or moving through your weekly flows are an important part of developing mobility. But, it’s also important to move your joints through their proper range of motion. For example, if you’re performing a squat, do your knees stay aligned with your toes or do they cave in? Are you able to move your hips back or do you start by bending your knees forward? It doesn’t matter how “low” you’re able to squat if the rest of your joints are in an improper position.
Having good mobility also means that your joints move well in all directions evenly. You may notice that one leg can lunge further out than the other, or that one side of your body is stronger than the other. Imbalances can cause injury. So, notice those differences and work on challenging the side that needs the help.
Part of developing good mobility is paying attention to how your body looks and moves in space. That means being mindful of your body during movement. Being thoughtful about positioning is an important step to moving well. Perhaps the most important part of moving well is building the strength so you can stay in a good position through the full range of motion.
Think about your body as an inter-working web of muscles, tendons, joints, bones, and nerves. Everything needs to work together well in order for you to maintain good mobility throughout your life. If you’re not sure about how to move properly–ask! It’s the job of personal trainers, yoga instructors, and coaches to instruct people to move their body well.