Yoga Practice

“I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.”

Remember the sit and reach test in elementary school? For many (especially guys), this was pure torture. Photo source: sports-inter.com

I’ve heard this in conversation so many times when talking to a co-worker or friend about yoga. They’ve heard so much about the practice and its benefits, and they are even interested in trying it. Yet, somehow the stereotype still exists that you must already be flexible to be able to do yoga.

When I compare yoga to other physical movement or fitness, no one starts out at full throttle. Want to do a 5K? Start by getting off the couch and putting on some running shoes. Want to play basketball? First learn to dribble and get the feel for the weight of the ball.

Baby steps, y’all.  No one expects you to fold forward and touch your nose to your knee already.

I look to my husband as a prime example of inflexibility. The man has a hard time sitting up at 90 degrees. He actually has to lean back a little because his hamstrings are so tight. And that’s okay.  He survives just fine in yoga by modifying, using a strap and working on lengthening his spine more than folding.

The good news for the inflexible is that yoga isn’t all forward folds and pretzel postures. It’d get pretty boring if that were the case. I’m pretty sure your body would protest.

Yoga helps you BECOME more flexible over time. It’s a slow process that will take months and years. If you’re bound to a desk chair like I am most of the day, you’ll probably have to work at it twice as much to make any progress.

Yes, you will have setbacks throughout the course of the practice. Some days, your legs and back feel strained. One day, you’ll magically reach your toes with ease. The next day, strained again. It happens. You just have to look at it in terms of the whole picture.

Our Westernized hips and hamstrings are not used to opening up and feeling loose. Just keep working at it and remember all the other wonderful things you’re accomplishing through yoga at the same time: strength, stamina, a sense of calm and a clear mind. The flexibility will come eventually and should by no means be a deterrent for starting or continuing yoga.

The flip side of this is that many people who aren’t flexible have a lot of strength already. My husband got into headstand on his 3rd try purely with the strength in his shoulders and lats. The key is to find balance between flexibility and strength, so whether you have one or the other, there’s always something to work on.

How do you respond to the excuse of inflexibility?

And just for some additional reading, I came across these posts about flexibility that I thought were relevant to the conversation.

The Truth about Forward Folds

Why Flexibility is Important to your Health

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