The Truth About Yoga: You Don’t Need to Be Flexible

I can’t tell you how many people tell me they can’t do yoga because they are not flexible, so they don’t try it. So here’s the reality of getting started in yoga.

I received an email the other day that one of my regular yoga classes was cancelled. The good news is that the new beginner gentle yoga class sold out! The amount of signups for beginner yoga shows me how intimidating yoga can be. The word yoga alone comes with a lot of stigma that is difficult to diffuse.

When you think yoga probably a few words come to mind – flexibility, stretching, and breath. For those of you who might not be able to touch your toes, this can be very discouraging. I can’t tell you how many people tell me they can’t do yoga because they are not flexible, so they don’t try it. But what people actually know about yoga might be limited to that pretzel yoga pose they saw on the cover of Yoga Journal.

So I showed up to teach the first day of beginner yoga class and discovered fifteen students with that new-to-yoga, deer-in-the-headlights look. I announced to the class that this would be a beginner gentle class and we would start off slowly. The class almost immediately seemed relieved and took a deep breath. Several students in the class had little flexibility and required modifications. I always encourage my students to start off where they are and sometimes I share my own personal struggles. I know as yoga teachers we say it doesn’t matter if you touch your toes, but we mean it. If you are breathing, you are practicing yoga.

Don’t swear off yoga forever if your forward fold looks like you’re standing in mountain pose. This is where my student says, “I am folding forward!” It can definitely be discouraging if your flexibility feels like a bad joke, but it’s all about baby steps. A marathon runner doesn’t wake up one morning and start running marathons. So, it’s unrealistic to believe that you will be an advanced yogi without practice. As I’ve often heard, slow and steady wins the race. Yoga is definitely not about winning, but it sure feels good when you finally get that favorite yoga pose.

Here are a few beginner tips to get started:

  1. Start practicing! Don’t make excuses.
  2. Pick one yoga pose and work on it.
  3. Got tight hamstrings? Forward fold every day is your friend.
  4. If you’re short on time, practice for 5-10 minutes per day.
  5. Don’t dismiss breathing and meditation. It works!
  6. Find a teacher and class that work for you. All types of yoga exist.

beginner yoga, starting yoga, yoga intimidating, afraid to start yogaHere’s the skinny on yoga that you won’t know before you go: You will not be required to stand on your head or do other advanced poses. Your teacher will not require you to touch your toes. You do not need to be flexible, nor do you need to wear yoga pants. (I don’t think I have ever seen a guy wearing yoga pants, but I’m sure it exists somewhere. Definitely not in Quincy, Illinois.) You will be able to use modifications. You do not need to be good at yoga or know what you are doing.

All of that is what we yoga instructors are here for and if you have the right teacher, you’ll see just what I’m talking about. Go for it!

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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