If you’re dying to try yoga but are afraid you might die trying, you’re not alone. When most people think of yoga they envision slim, zen-like people, twisting their bodies into seemingly impossible poses. All while breathing effortlessly in a state of pure bliss.
This idea of yoga might be true for long term practitioners and experts, but the truth is you don’t have to be insanely flexible in order to gain the mental and physical benefits of doing yoga.
If you’re not flexible at all, it’s even more important that you get to the mat and start your flow. You will quickly begin to see why yoga is for many, a welcomed part of their daily routine.
Continue reading to learn why yoga is not actually about being flexible and why you should try it today.
Not Flexible? No Problem!
There are many positive benefits to maintaining flexibility in your joints. This is particularly true for weight-bearing joints such as your hips and knees. Having a full range of motion provides blood and nutrient supply to your joints that is important to maintain the health of cartilage.
Stretching has many health benefits but it’s not a prerequisite to trying yoga. Even those of us who can’t touch our toes are still ready to start. In fact, it’s a good reason to start.
If you’re not familiar with yoga or have never stretched a day in your life, don’t fret. Many yoga studios will offer a beginner’s class to help ease you into some of the poses.
However, most yoga instructors are prepared to assist a variety of students in their class no matter what level they’re at. Unless specifically defined as an expert class it is more likely that you won’t be the only one who struggles with flexibility.
Yoga is Balance
Pantanjali, the sage who wrote the Yoga Sutras, never spoke of flexibility as the main goal of yoga. He actually wrote about the importance of balance between flexibility and strength or stability.
Yoga classes are less about being the best and more about focusing on yourself. Your goal is to concentrate on your mind-body connection by holding the pose to the best of your ability. If you’re not familiar with this idea, this connection refers to how our thoughts and feelings can negatively or positively affect our physical health.
Modifications to Ease Your Mind
You may be a little nervous when you show up at your first yoga class. Rest assured that your teacher is not going to force you into a pose or make you stand on your head.
This is not a requirement of a yoga class. In fact, there are many modifications to each pose that can make them achievable for almost anyone.
For example, you can put your hand on your knee instead of reaching down to the floor. You can also put a slight bend in your knees at times if the stretch is too intense.
Yoga teachers usually walk around the room to help each student improve their pose. Don’t worry, your peers will probably be too busy focusing on their own form to notice yours.
Yoga studios also provide props such as blocks, bolsters, or straps to help you hold the pose more comfortably. These are meant to help you slowly extend into a pose.
Yoga is a Practice, Not a Destination
It takes practice to get good at anything. The only way to improve your flexibility is through repetition. But you don’t have to be the best at yoga or at every pose in order to benefit from it.
There is a range of different poses, and some are much easier than others. Maybe your forward fold looks more like a mountain pose. We all have to start somewhere!
The key is to choose a pose and practice it often. You don’t have to spend more than 5-10 minutes a day practicing yoga. Plus for most poses, you don’t need more than a mat, which is both affordable and easy to carry with you.
Everyone Has Limitations
While it’s true that you can improve your flexibility by practicing yoga regularly, there are some of us who are physically less flexible than others. This has to do with our individual body build, natural flexibility, as well as the proportion of our limbs.
While these might prevent us from becoming the top yoga practitioner in the world, it doesn’t stop you from being the best you can be.
Create a plan that is personalized for your individual goals. If you have tight muscles, you can work to improve your range of motion while still maintaining stability and strength.
For those who are naturally flexible, your goal may be to improve your strength and stability in a pose. It’s all about striving for a balance between the two extremes.
Listen to your body as you relax into each pose and breathe. This releases the stress and tension in your muscles. Yoga teaches us to be more mindful of the present moment. That alone has many advantages.
Yoga Your Way to Health
Oftentimes when we see someone doing advanced yoga poses, we assume that yoga just isn’t for us because we are not flexible. The truth is the people doing those intricate poses are displaying the result of years worth of practice and dedication.
Anyone can improve their flexibility, posture, and strength through yoga. The key is to continue to practice it and continue to have patience. The best way to stay committed is to find a style that you enjoy and that works best for your body.
There are many types of yoga and a variety of studios to choose from. Don’t be discouraged if you are lacking flexibility. Yoga practitioners come in all shapes and sizes. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded individuals who are looking to better their health and overall wellness.
Want more great yoga advice to improve your skills? Check our blog for helpful tips.