Think back to a time before you ever set foot on a yoga mat. When you thought about yoga, did you imagine svelte athletes twisting themselves into pretzel shapes? If that’s the case, you weren’t alone. When most people think about yoga, they picture all the most complex and advanced poses and immediately consider themselves too inflexible to keep up.
Let’s put this myth to rest once and for all. You don’t have to be flexible to enjoy yoga. You don’t need to touch your toes or do a hand-stand to enjoy all the health benefits that yoga has to offer.
Flexibility is a Result of Yoga, Not a Prerequisite.
Some people are naturally more flexible than others, and others have gained it through dance or gymnastics. But flexibility is something that comes with practice and improves over time.
A marathoner would never simply get up one day and run 26.2 miles. Distance runners spend months training, lifting weights, and building endurance before they even attempt to tackle such a feat. Likewise, flexibility is a result of a consistent yoga practice. It takes time and commitment to become more flexible and build the endurance necessary to take on advanced movements.
The best way to use yoga for flexibility is to begin today. Work on one pose at a time. Stretch gradually and slowly, protecting your muscles and teaching your body to move in a new way. Make it challenging, but don’t rush the process. Even 5-10 minutes a day of practice will help soften your muscles, and you’ll see improvements within a few practice sessions.
Don’t Skip Breathing and Meditation
Flexibility is only part of what yoga is all about. Breathing, or pranayama, and meditation can reduce your stress and anxiety, relaxing your mind and allowing you to see things from a new perspective. Yoga is the connection of mind and body, so you should cultivate mental flexibility just as you work on your physical flexibility.
Not Flexible Enough to Touch Your Toes? We Don’t Mind.
Yoga instructors agree – it doesn’t matter if you can touch your toes or not. We mean it.
The best way to begin a yoga practice and work towards improving your flexibility is to find the right teacher and the right class. Maybe a beginner’s yoga class will make your transition into yoga easier, or maybe you have a friend who can go along and provide support.
Yoga instructors provide modifications that allow anyone to participate at their own comfort level, so feel free to use whatever works for you. If you aren’t ready to take on an advanced pose, that’s fine. Use a modification whenever necessary, and go at your own pace.
Yoga is About Honoring Your Body.
Your body is amazing. Think of all it does for you every day. Honor your body in your yoga practice by challenging it and recognizing its limits.
Every body is different. Even your genetically-determined skeletal structure can impact your ability to move in certain ways. Your movements in yoga will also reflect your other daily activities. Cyclists, for example, typically have tight hip flexors that need extra attention on the mat.
Yoga isn’t just for the flexible, the skinny, or the active. Yoga is for everyone. Including you.