This one for the yogis and gymnasts, the ultimate smoothie for yoga flexibility! These are are many elements that go together to promote increased flexibility and a big one is of course how active you are. However, there are certainly foods and supplements that we can use to provide a good base for expanding our practise and allowing our asanas to become fluid and graceful.
There are always poses which are difficult to sink into for all of us, where we reach a point of blockage and discomfort. Its important to recognise and respect our own personal limitations but to also dwell in curious exploration and to push at our perceived boundaries. Having the right physiological support can provide us with increased mobility and less pain in these difficult places or areas of the body, be it our hips, knees or indeed spine. Being able to dwell for longer and move in and out of those challenges we can often see quick improvement and what once was a blockage and a sharp ‘no’ can turn into a soft maybe.
Keep listening, practising and don’t be afraid of your own perceived limitations, often that’s where the magic happens and suddenly what was once a dreaded pose can become a personal favourite! Feel free to skip the more in-depth information and go straight to the smoothie for yoga recipe that follows!
For those suffering from more of a serious bone and joint condition rather then just an inability to get into the perfect collapsed pigeon pose, this information is just as viable for you. Many of these same tonics, supplements and compounds have been shown to be very beneficial in treating arthritis and osteoporosis.
Obviously a key element in muscle and tendon strength and for rebuilding torn or over stretched ligaments. It is recommended to consume some protein after exercise to help the body heal and recover. Obviously, with yoga its not quite the same as a full-blown body building session but still, it can still sometimes be a strenuous activity, especially if you practise ashtanga or a more modern dance-yoga hybrid. Protein is also a great stamina boost during practise and is a great fuel for a longer session. I would recommend a complete protein powder mix and/or some home made nut milk for easy, quick assimilation. My favourite powder mix is Miessence Complete Protein and I love making hemp and almond milk. You can learn how here.
I have been recently learning about the importance of Sulphur for the body. Different sources suggest slightly different ratios but it is said to be the most abundant mineral in the human body. Your connective tissue and cartilage contain proteins with flexible sulphur bonds, giving the structures flexibility so without enough sulphur your flexibility is impaired. Sulphur is derived almost exclusively from dietary protein. The 2 amino acids (the protein building blocks) that contain sulphur are Methionine (one of the essential amino acids) and Cysteine (which can be synthesised within the body with adequate sulphur supply. As a vegan/veggie you can obtain sulphur through eating organic cruciferous vegetables such as garlic, onion, cabbage and kale. However, if the soil is depleted of sulphur the quantity within the vegetables will be low too. One argument for the better health of people living in Iceland is the high amount of sulphur in the soil deposited by recent volcanic activity. The same could be true for those living in Oregon and Hawaii (those who still enjoy the local, native food). The sure way to get adequate sulphur is to take a high quality MSM supplement (Methylsulfonylmethane) which is an organic, vegan, form of distilled sulphur. I have just started using Raw Revelations’ MSM and am excited at the prospect of even better joint and tendon health (which is something I suffered with since adolescence and which has improved dramatically with use of complete protein powder containing the aforementioned Methioine.
Eucommia is known to help improve flexibility and well as increase physical energy. It is used to help fortify the bones, ligaments and tendons and is especially reinforcing to the knees, ankles and back, particularly the lumbar lower spine region and perfect for intense physical workout regimens that require greater structural integrity and elasticity. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is viewed as a potent Yang Jing tonic used to support the skeletal, reproductive and endocrine systems. Although it can also be used for swelling and inflammation for best results a tonic is something used consistently to nourish and maintain healthy bones and joints before problems develop. The key constituent is latex which is the key active ingredient promoting strength in the connective tissues when consumed. It has a mildly bitter, earthy taste and works well in raw desserts and smoothies. My partner has just started using this and is reporting a noticeable different in his elasticity.
Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, improving the blood circulation and detoxifying to the lymphatic system and it is these very actions that help reduce arthritic pain or stiffness of the joints. The active compound is curcumin which inhibits inflammation in synovial fluid within the joint. It is alkalising and known to break down calcium deposits caused by excessive consumption of acidic forming foods. Golden milk has long been lauded as a magical lubricating and bone strengthening tonic in Ayurvedic medicine and is made from almond milk, coconut oil, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric. Use fresh powder, grate the root if you can find it or use an oil extraction.
I am planning a longer article on Omega 3 v Omega 6 so will keep it simple here. We get far too much omega 6 in the standard western diet. With the average ratio being 1:20 in favour of omega 6.. It’s recommended as 1:1. So perhaps in a quest to be healthier you have tried to consume more omega oils? A good intention can often cause more harm then good, especially with these oils which can lead to high blood pressure, blood clots and strokes. What you are looking for is more Omega 3. Omega 3 promotes flexibility by decreasing joint inflammation. One of the best, most potent, easily assimilated ways is using an extraction. I like the vegan friendly offering from Raw Revelations thats extracted from algae. Freshly ground flax seed is another great option, however the form (ALA) is not as easily assimilated as DHA and EPA as it actually has to be converted before it can be used and this conversion can be impaired by elevated insulin levels (which 80% of Americans suffer with). If using flax make sure to grind it fresh as it goes rancid as soon as the cracked seed is exposed to air or light or heat, hence why you always keep flax oil refrigerated.
Of course we all know that calcium is great for bone strength but unfortunately many still work under the adage that you get the best quality from dairy products. I wrote about this issue extensively in my article 6 reasons not to drink milk. You get very high levels of calcium form dark leafy greens and also the superfood that is chia seeds. Getting calcium from your greens means you are alkalising at the same time which is another factor in bone and joint health and related inflammatory conditions. 2 tablespoons of chia seeds contains 5 times the calcium as a glass of milk PLUS the bonus of double the amount of omega-3 as the same quantity of fresh salmon!
Vitamin C & B
Both vitamin C and B are thought to be an important combination for lubricating joints. The equivalent of 2 oranges worth of vitamin C is recommended daily. For joints B6 and B12 are particularly important working together to dilate arteries and veins, increasing blood flow to the muscles, ligaments and tendons. These vitamins reduce swelling in muscle tissue. They also stimulate the production of myetin, a coating that protects nerve endings and reduces joint pain. Algae are a great source of vitamin B including the elusive B12 (hard to get in a vegan diet). I use Miessence Deep Green for my daily vitamin needs which is also a good source of sulphur and calcium so a great tonic for general bone and joint health.
Ultimate Smoothie for Yoga Flexibility
1 tablespoon complete protein powder
1 teaspoon Eucommia Bark
1 dropper full of Super 3 Omega extraction
1 tablespoon of soaked chia seeds
1 teaspoon of Miessence Deep Green
2 cups of spring water or homemade nut milk
Simply blend and serve and of course, make your own alterations. This is for sure not a recipe set in stone, it is indeed flexible 🙂 Especially if you are buying all these ingredients for the first time, just build your collection gradually if that suits your finances better.
You could emit the banana if you aren’t feeling too hungry and just want the ultimate bone and ligament feeding super boost!
Now go stretch and make your next smoothie for yoga count!