I'm Not Flexible Enough To Do Yoga
“I'm not flexible enough to do yoga” - This is the single most frequent response I get from people when I tell them I am a yoga teacher. It is a funny paradoxical phrase not that dissimilar to saying something along the lines of - I’m too dirty to take a shower. How are you supposed to get clean if you don’t shower?
Your lack of flexibility is an excellent reason to start doing yoga. Like any new skill, it takes time to develop. If you were learning an instrument for the very first time, nobody would expect you to be able to crack out Beethoven’s concerto after one lesson. It would be a crying shame if no one ever learnt anything new, just because they weren’t an expert from the offset, wouldn’t it?
Yoga is for every body, every age and every ability.
I was a beginner once and understand just how intimidating the first few yoga classes you attend can be. But what we all have to remember is that, everybody’s journey is different, and everybody shows up to the mat with their own unique story, compromising of all of their experiences, advantages, injuries and limitations to date. The person sitting next to you unable to sit with their legs crossed, may be recovering from a hip replacement or a meniscus tear. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the person sitting in front of you with their legs behind their head in some freakishly bendy posture, may well have been practicing for 2 decades, or have a background in gymnastics or dance. Chances are, unless they were blessed with natural bendiness, they were also a beginner once.
Yoga is not just a physical practice.
The other good news is, the physical stuff is just one piece of the overall puzzle of yoga. Historically, the postures were just preparatory tools used by yogis to get them ready for meditation. According to the Indian sage Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga system, it is 1 out of 8 parts or ‘limbs’ of yoga. Just one 8th!
There is so much more to it than the shapes we make with our bodies, which I’ll save for another post - but most importantly, it’s how you FEEL, not what you look like, that counts the most.
Despite what your local gym might tell you, Yoga is first and foremost a practice of self-enquiry. Of turning inwards. Of showing up to the mat and checking in with yourself in that moment, with compassion - How are you feeling physically? What is coming up for you today mentally? - Ask yourself these questions and then go from there accordingly.
Remember, nobody has any expectations of you other than YOU. 99% of the time people are far more focused on their own practice to worry about whether or not the person next to them is touching their toes.
Don’t allow these expectations to get in the way of you and this magical practice. In my humble experience, the mental and spiritual benefits of yoga far outweigh any physical gain anyway.