Too Unflexible for Yoga?

Too unflexible for yoga -beginners yoga

I just had to share this picture!  I have heard this joke before and it is so true!   When I talk to people and suggest they come try a yoga class, I often get this type of response. It’s like saying you’re too dirty for a bath!  This is really a common response and I have wondered why there is this apparent fear of coming out to yoga as a beginner?  I think that yoga teachers are very nice people!  We don’t bite!  We won’t laugh or ridicule someone and have no expectations for our students coming in to the class to be able to perform the postures to any specific level of ability.  In fact, I would think it is much scarier going to a boot camp class or spinning or cross-fit!  But time and time again, I hear this response.  One of my good friends said she would not come to yoga until she had completed a certain amount of P90x!
In my personal experiences with yoga classes, I have seen it all.  There have been very gentle classes and then classes where I walked in and people were standing on their heads and doing amazing things that I could not even dream of doing at that time!  I can see where it could be intimidating.  I also hear this often from men….  they feel that women are more flexible and are uncomfortable to think that they would be unable to perform the poses due to lack of flexibility.  Here are some things to ponder if this has been your excuse for not coming out to yoga:

  • Nobody is looking at you.  Most of the time people have their eyes closed!  Yoga encourages us to go inward and to feel the yoga in the body.  This is why many yoga studios do not have mirrors.  Students are encouraged to feel the poses in their body and to stretch only to the point that FEELS right in the body -not to look at others or their reflection and force the body to go deeper in an attempt to get the correct “LOOK” of the pose.  Now to be honest I go both ways on the mirror debate -I do feel that on some occasions it is benefit to use a mirror or to have another set of eyes (partner or teacher) helping to find the correct alignment as what may feel aligned or right in our body may not be proper alignment (for example we feel like our body is centered over our hips in Warrior II however we are really leaning forward)…

 

  • Your limit today is your starting point tomorrow.  Now this is not a steadfast rule but you get the idea….the body responds immediately to stretching and very quickly opens up, softens and loosens.  One might find that this changes as a result of tiredness, high impact exercise or illness from time to time and we will go back to being tighter but generally the more we stretch, the looser we become and we quickly gain flexibility.

 

  • Being “unflexible” does not indicate low fitness level or ability... in fact, many athletes such as runners for example have really tight muscles!  This is because the body contracts the muscles during many sports to protect the joints and therefore the muscles become shorter and less flexible.  Yoga helps to counter this effect and bring flexibility and balance back to the body.  Many sports such as tennis, golf and hockey involve the use of one side of the body more than the other and yoga is amazing for helping with this.

 

  • Everything goes at yoga.  You can literally come into a yoga class and do nothing and nobody will say anything to you.  That means you can take a child’s pose for the entire class or sit at the back and watch, observe and virtually practice in your mind.  one of the most powerful sources of inspiration for me in my Power Yoga days wasn’t the person who could stand on their head or lift an arm and a leg in wheel pose (I’m not kidding)….it was when I saw one of my teachers who was a major influence on me with her high level of fitness, come to a class and spend the entire time in child’s pose.  I couldn’t believe it and this reallly taught me something about honouring the needs of my body and not pushing myself all the time but really having compassion and nurturing myself when tired or just need a break.  As we discussed in my seniors yoga training, we tell the students who come to yoga:  “Anything goes here.  You can laugh, cry, moan and groan, and even fart.”  And believe me…I have seen it all!  And that is what is so great about yoga.  We go within and as we connect with our inner being we come to realize how connected we are to others -we are the same and we all laugh, cry, moan and groan and yes, fart.

 

  • If you don’t use it, you lose it.  Just as a baby takes his or her first step and falls and gets back up again and has to try and try again….so goes a yoga practice.  Nobody walks into their first yoga class and busts a headstand and then folds them self into a pretzel!  Yoga is a practice….a practice that begins with the breath.  We breathe and we do our yoga.  We move into postures that challenge this breath and we find that an awareness and focus on the breath helps to bring an ease into the practice.  If you can breathe, you are ready to try yoga.

 

So what are you waiting for?  Hope to see you on your mat soon!

melissascheichl

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