Thanks for the response, Terry....I was hoping you would chime in on this thread. It took awhile for your response and I thought you had said sometime in January that you had a goal of 10 minutes of yoga a day. I'd like to think that this thread caused you to think more deeply about your yoga practice and that it caused you to up the amount of time to 30 minutes a day because of it.
I was getting into Yoga more deeply, but I fizzled out in the last few weeks. I had a couple of minor health conditions (swimmer's ear, poison oak) that kept me out of the pool for a while, and I ended up getting demoralized and eventually stopped even doing just the Yoga.
I'm now getting back into the pool and feeling reinvigorated. Swimming does more for my spiritual well-being than Yoga does. That may be an ironic statement considering that Yoga places great emphasis on the spiritual aspect, but I'm sure many of you probably feel the same way.
I am going to get back into Yoga, but I have to de-emphasize it's priority and importance and I'll try to explain why....With swimming, I can jump back into the pool after a layoff, feel good, and not feel that I've lost too much ground (so to speak)....With Yoga, after a layoff, I feel like I'm starting all over from scratch and that I'm stiff as a board....I find that very frustrating on a spiritual level! I find myself, nowadays, to not be a fan of any activity that requires a high level of maintenance.
I will do Yoga again, but I think what I want to do is treat it almost the way that I have treated weightlifting. Instead of everyday for 5 minutes, perhaps 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes. This way I give myself a break from doing it everyday, but I still put in enough time to make an impact....To tell you the truth, I am not sure what actual difference it would make for me if I did it everyday, or every other day. This is a big part of the frustration I have expressed in my previous post. There is no consensus whatsoever. Generally, Yogis have a philosophy of the more the better and this is unacceptable to me. I would be willing to put in 2 hours a day if the benefits and results were much greater, but there is no evidence of this. In fact, there is no evidence of the great benefits derived from great flexibility. If I pushed myself to do the splits, what is the relevance of this?? There is just a brain-dead assumption that the more flexibility, the better.
There is this Russian Guy by the name of Pavel Tsatsouline who has written books on stretching and flexibility. Now granted, this is not exactly the same as Yoga, but I appreciate that his emphasis is on the physical aspect rather than the puzzling spiritual aspects of yoga. He has some interesting opinions that I'd like to share. He says that research suggests that the amount of flexibility necessary is only slightly beyond what your sport requires. In fact, too much flexibility can be a negative factor. He mentions a famous martial artist that went beyond the 180 degrees of a regular split and found that when he kicked, his legs did not retract back quickly the way they had done before.
Pavel also says that over-stretching is dangerous because you can damage your ligaments and tendons.
He also says that it's a myth that when you increase your flexibility that you lengthen the muscle. He claims that what keeps us inflexible is within the brain, not within the muscle. I wish I could find the scientific term he uses, but that essentially your brain has to feel confident that it can get into a flexible position without injury.
Oh...and also, he doesn't believe that static stretching is the best way to get flexible. He believes in the contract-relax method. Essentially tensing the muscles, then relaxing, as being way more effective in developing flexibility.
I'm not saying I necessarily agree with his viewpoints, but what he does is espouse a different opinion and make you think more deeply about flexibility (or yoga).
I suppose that where I"m at lately, is that I want to get back to the Less is More philosophy with yoga, rather than the More is Better philosophy. I just don't like Yoga enough to want to do it 5-10 hours a week, and I am not seeing the value of it clearly enough in a couple of ways. Firstly, if I do Yoga 10 hours a week, will I become more flexible than if I did it 20 minutes a day, and secondly, what value does this increased flexibility really have??
It is very frustrating because Yoga suffers from its mystique. It's been around for thousands of years, yet it is so poorly researched and truly understood. I appreciate what Terry said about the acronym S.M.A.R.T....I am also one who wants to see actual, measurable, relevant progress, but it is a bit of a conundrum. You can have a goal of doing the splits, but it may be very tricky defining the relevance of this....and it may also be that your own body wasn't designed to be as flexible as someone else's based on bone structure, ligaments, etc.
The last thing I want to say regarding Yoga as a vehicle for greater flexibility is this. I am motivated to develop my flexibility, but feel very strongly that once I've gotten to a flexible point that seems right for me, I want it to be easily maintained. I don't want to feel that I have to do Yoga everyday for 30 minutes for the rest of my life. I would rather feel that I can choose from a very few poses and do Yoga like 5 minutes, 3x a week, and maintain nearly all that I have gained.