“Do you have to be flexible to do yoga?” This is a common question I get asked as a yoga teacher. I often get this as a reason for why people won’t try yoga. Let’s just clear something up right away. You do not need to be flexible to do yoga. This is not a prerequisite to the practice. They call it a practice for a reason. While practicing yoga you will gain more flexibility in addition to many other benefits.
Where yoga really comes into play is in your acceptance of where you’re at physically, and maybe on other levels as well. It’s natural to look around the room and notice how your poses aren’t quite as advanced as those of others. I do that myself, especially when I’m in a room full of advanced yoga teachers. There is always someone in the room who is able to do more challenging poses. The difference between us may be just a lot more practice. The saying “practice makes perfect” holds true here.
Of course, even without practice there are natural physical advantages. One could say that women generally have an advantage to being more flexible, whereas men generally have strength on their side. We all have our advantages and our limitations, so start where you are. I have witnessed people of all walks challenge their bodies and become both flexible and strong. That brings us back to the idea of practice.
In my practice, I struggle with strength, especially in my upper body. This means that I try to implement more chaturangas and core-strengthening poses. If your challenge is flexibility, focus your yoga practice more on those poses that increase flexibility.
If these poses feel overwhelming and impossible, then start off small. Find a pose you would really like to master and set aside ten to fifteen minutes to focus on it. I have practiced handstands for about six months now. Sometimes my handstand was just a little hop towards the wall. I’m now able to get myself up in a handstand for a microsecond and be at the wall without a spotter. This seemed impossible to me at one point in time.
Sometimes it’s difficult to see the improvement you’ve made in your yoga practice. But trust me, your yoga teacher notices. That is one of the gifts of being a yoga teacher – seeing a student progress. Just in the last couple weeks I’ve had a few students get into wheel pose for the first time and it’s so rewarding, for both them and me.
If you practice, you’ll see improvement. If you don’t practice, you won’t. It’s that simple. Saying “I can’t do it” is self-defeating and does nothing but delay your practice even further. There will always be more to learn, accomplish, and strive for. You never really arrive at the destination, so you might as well try to enjoy the journey.
Here are a few tips to get started with your yoga practice:
- Set an intention or goal and dedicate ten to fifteen minutes per day.
- Stay positive and know it’s possible.
- Visualize yourself achieving your intention.
- Be patient with yourself and honor your body.
- Acknowledge your improvements, big or small.
- Continue your practice.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.